Book review: ‘Themes for English B’ |

Book review: ‘Themes for English B’

Andrew Fersch
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

It is always delightful to get an opportunity to read the creative writing of an English teacher, especially if that teacher is your own. One of my huge hopes as a teacher myself is that this year my students have picked apart my writing every now and then and challenged themselves a little more by thinking they can do better (which I’m certain they could!). Having never been a student of Professor Scrimgeour at Salem State College in Witch City, USA, I couldn’t say what sort of expectations he has of his students or what sort of impression he gives them regarding his skills, but I can certainly share my opinions on his writing.

The book, which is broken up into 10 short non-fiction stories, gives some insight into the life and mind of a professor at a not-particularly-prestigious state college. It covers how he arrived where he is and how he feels about where he ended up. A Columbia grad (for undergrad and graduate school), Scrimgeour delights in having chosen to be a man of the people at a public university. In fact, there are definitely times when it seems as if he might be trying just a tad too hard to show that. He very un-casually drops references to being socially enlightened enough to date a black woman in the ’60s and throws down all sorts of guilt-laden references about feeling like he hasn’t quite helped his minority students enough. Although these comments and scenarios seem forced and like he’s trying to prove his accepting nature more to himself than others, there is also a genuine sweetness and honesty in his words.

Scrimegour is in fact a professor at a commuter college, a school where many students work full time jobs to foot the bill and miss class because they have a child or overtime means being able to make rent and have a night out on the town. As a graduate of an Ivy school this was a conscientious choice, though I couldn’t say what his deep-down motivation was.

And so in 144 quick pages the reader gets a peek into the mind of a man who loved Langston Hughes, adores basketball (and to a lesser extend baseball), and regardless of how hard he seems to think he needs to try ” has already proven that he is a man of the people just by the decisions and life he has led.

Andrew Fersch writes weekly book reviews for the Vail Daily. E-mail comments about this review to This book is available for purchase at the Bookworm in Edwards.

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