Small Victories

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The list of books addressing the national crisis in American education is long and still growing. SMALL VICTORIES, however, is not just another addition to this list. While intent on facing the issue of providing quality public education to economically and academically disadvantaged students, this book captures the human faces involved in the struggle by focusing on the experiences of Siegel, her colleagues, and her students at Seward Park High School during the 1987-1988 school year.

Siegel is an energetic and dedicated teacher whose duties include team teaching a course on the history of the Lower East Side and advising the staff of the school newspaper, SEWARD WORLD. Her seven years at Seward Park High have been simultaneously rewarding and frustrating--rewarding for the number of students she has nurtured as journalists and guided into college, but frustrating for the personal sacrifices required of her. Torn between her affection for her students and the vague yearning to return to her former career in journalism, Siegel is plagued with doubts about continuing as a teacher.

Freedman, a former reporter for THE NEW YORK TIMES, manages to narrate Siegel’s experiences unobtrusively while exploring interesting side stories on the colleagues, students, and families whose lives intersect with Siegel’s. In one of the most affecting episodes of the book, Siegel drives three of her students to be interviewed at the State University of New York...

(The entire section is 452 words.)