Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Review: Crazy is Normal By Lloyd Lofthouse

CRAZY IS NORMAL

By: Lloyd Lofthouse

Published: June 14, 2014

Publisher: Three Clover Press

Non-Fiction/Memoir






I'm participating in the book tour for CRAZY IS NORMAL with Virtual Author Book Tours. After teaching for twenty years, Lofthouse decided to keep a journal sharing the ups and downs of teaching freshman English and journalism. He kept this journal during the school year of 1994-1995. Twenty years later in 2014, his experiences teaching in the California public school system are still seen in classrooms all over the country today.

CRAZY IS NORMAL is a great way to describe the setting in his classrooms. It was rare to have an entire class that listened, did their work, and followed through on their homework. The bright light in his day was his time with his journalism students. These students were motivated to work, intelligent, and made him laugh, unlike most of his freshman English students.

Nogales High School in La Puente, CA is located in a prime gang community. Drive-by shootings and acts of vandalism occurred on a regular basis. Mr. Lofthouse had to work with students from the gang community that didn't care about school, to students who had a second-grade reading level and were continually given a passing grade, to students who truly wanted to learn and do their best to succeed. These different groups of students brought daily challenges which the author shares through his weekly journal notes. The reader will be able to feel frustrated right along with the author as he sends the same students again and again to what he calls BIC, which is basically an in-school suspension. It became quite monotonous to read the same type of situations day in and day out, but it was reality for Mr. Lofthouse.

Because this book basically consists of journal entries, there is little plot or story construction. As you read through the year, you read about the same students and you want to know how the school year ends for them, good or bad.  But there is little to draw you in and keep you reading. I was uncomfortable with his attraction to his "star journalism student", Amanda. Even though he was attracted to her, I believe it was inappropriate for him to write about it, although, thankfully, he didn't act on his feelings. I appreciated that he made sure he wasn't in a situation with a student that could have caused concern, such as being alone in a room with a female student. But, it still made me cringe. I also took offense to his frustration with substitute teachers. As a substitute teacher, I take my job seriously and do my best to carry out the plans left by the teacher. I would much rather teach something than sit and read all day. Not all subs are in the classroom to have a good time or mess up the teacher's plans as he discussed. Some of us really care about the students and their learning.

His frustrations with teaching, his feelings of burnout, and annoyance with out-of-touch administrators are common themes in schools today. Fellow teachers will empathize with Mr. Lofthouse and respect his convictions to teach students the proper way to read and write.

The following video is an interview with the author, Lloyd Lofthouse. In the interview he gives his opinion on how his book, based on a year in his classroom in 1994, is worth reading today, even twenty years later. He also shares his opinion on No Child Left Behind and the solution to education reform today. I have to say that I actually agree with his solution. The importance of reading to your children at the beginning of their life and continuing to reinforce the values of reading will have a substantial impact on your child's educational future.







If you would like to purchase a copy of CRAZY IS NORMAL, you can click the photo below. Through November 15, the book is only $.99 on Kindle.



There are several other blogs participating in the book tour for CRAZY IS NORMAL. To read interviews with the author, see other reviews and even enter to win copies of the book, click on the blogs below. 

Crazy Is Normal Web Tour Schedule

Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus Oct. 1 Review & Giveaway
Inspire to Read Oct. 2  Guest Post & Excerpt
Cassandra M's Place Oct. 6 Review & Giveaway
Pinky's Favorite Reads Interview & Excerpt
Dr Bill's Book Bazaar Oct. 8 Review                                          
Being Tillys Mummy Oct 9 Guest Post & Excerpt
Unselfish Oct 13 Review                                               
Back Porchervations Oct 14 Review, Interview, & Excerpt
Sincerely Stacie Oct. 15 Review                                               
Heck Of A Bunch Oct. 17 Review & Giveaway
Books, Books & More Books Oct 21 Review                                        
Rockin' Book Reviews Oct 22 Review, Interview, and  Excerpt
The Book Binder's Daughter Oct. 23 Review & Interview
The News in Books Oct. 29 Review & Guest Post
M. Denise Costello Oct. 30 Review & Excerpt
She Treads Softly Nov. 3 Review                                              
CelticLady's Reviews Nov 4 Review                                          
My Devotional Thoughts            Nov. 5 Review & Excerpt
Manic Mama of 2 Nov. 6 Review & Excerpt
Deal Sharing Aunt Nov 7 Review, Interview, & Excerpt
What U Talking Bout Willis? Nov 10 Review & Excerpt
From Isi Nov 11 Review



Lloyd Lofthouse

Little did Lloyd Lofthouse know in 1999, when he married Anchee Min, that he was beginning a journey of discovery. His first trip to The Middle Kingdom was on the honeymoon with his bride, who introduced him to China and Robert Hart (1835-1911), the main characters in Lloyd’s first two novels, My Splendid Concubine andOur Hart. The next decade was a journey of discovery. Lloyd now lives near San Francisco with his wife–with a second home in Shanghai, China.
Lloyd earned a BA in journalism in 1973 after fighting in Vietnam as a U.S. Marine. While working days as an English teacher, he enjoyed a second job as a maitre d’ in a multimillion-dollar nightclub. His short story, A Night at the ‘Well of Purity’ was named as a finalist for the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards.
Lloyd has won 15 awards for My Splendid Concubine and 5 awards for Running With the Enemy.
Thanks to Virtual Author Book Tours for providing me a copy of this book for review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review. If you choose to purchase the book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting SincerelyStacie.com reviews. 

2 comments:

The Teacher said...

Thank you for your review of my memoir. What I found especially interesting was the fact that you are a dedicated, career substitute teacher, because they are so rare and valuable to full-time teachers—so rare, that full-time teachers often book the best, dedicated, experienced substitute teachers as far in advance as possible hoping that another teacher won’t request them first.

But most of the time, there was no way to know who the substitute would be and a few times, even when I had succeeded in booking one of the best substitute teachers, the district would redirect them at the last minute—without my knowledge—to another class or school and send my students to the library without a substitute.

Too bad I did not think of the substitute teacher issue when I was using the daily journal I had written back during the 1994-95 school year. The journal was far too long for the memoir, so I cut at least half of the material out, if not more, as I wrote the memoir in a dated journal format but in a narrative style with—as you pointed out—no plot because real-life, at least for most of us, comes with no plot.

While writing the memoir, I also struggled with the fact that the daily challenges might seem repetitive to some readers but then decided that I had to be faithful to the reality of the challenges most teachers face every day. For me, it was a rare day when there wasn’t a challenge to overcome.

If I had thought of it, I would have written about the substitute teacher crises, and the quality and shortage of substitutes in the United States, but at least I can address that topic here—in brief—and, soon, in more detail in a longer post on one of my own blogs. I think readers who read that post will be shocked and maybe even angry.

I think the time has come to bring this issue into the open. Dedicated, full-time substitutes teachers deserve more support, respect, benefits and pay.

Teddy Rose said...

Thanks for taking part in the tour. I took what he said a different way. I think that is human nature to have urges for the opposite sex. However, what makes us different from other mammals is that we know when it is inappropriate to act on it. He knew that. However, I can see where that could make some readers uncomfortable.

I really liked the book because it opened my eyes to what an inner city high school is like. I don't think I would last 10 minutes with some of those students. I have a deep respect for teachers and substitute teachers who do that job!