Book Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Laughing Fire Press
Release Date: September 14, 2015
Purchase Links: Amazon & Barnes and Noble
-"Raw and edgy. . . Entertaining and authentic look at the troubled American education system. . ." --Kirkus Reviews, Recommended Review
-"Should be required reading for anyone who is considering or has ever considered teaching as a career. . . most highly recommended." --Readers' Favorite, 5-Star Review
-"A scathing comic novel . . . sort of a M*A*S*H for Miami schoolteachers." --Patrick Murtha, Book 'em, Danno
-"Incredibly artistic . . . raw and endearing." --San Francisco Book Review
-"A multi-faceted exploration of growth, maturity, and eventual transformation. . ." --D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
-Finalist in 2015 Stargazer Literary Prizes for best Visionary and Metaphysical Fiction
DEVELOPING MINDS: AN AMERICAN GHOST STORY follows a group of recent college graduates who struggle with feelings of alienation and their addictions as they try to survive a year of teaching at two dysfunctional Miami public schools.
A poetic and insightful coming-of-age novel, DEVELOPING MINDS is centered on 24-year-old Luke Entelechy, an aspiring writer who sees his creative output suffer when he begins teaching at one of Miami's most challenging middle schools. As the year progresses, however, Luke begins to relate to the neglect and abuse his students suffer, and is faced with a haunting decision: continue to let his dark past destroy him, or rise above the struggle to realize his potential as an artist and a real human being.
Equal parts disturbing and humorous, DEVELOPING MINDS offers a brutally honest look at the American public school system and the extreme measures many teachers take to cope with working in it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jonathan LaPoma is an award-winning novelist, screenwriter, songwriter, and poet from Buffalo, NY. In 2005, he received a BA in history and a secondary education credential from the State University of New York at Geneseo, and he traveled extensively throughout the United States and Mexico after graduating. These experiences have become the inspiration for much of his writing, which often explores themes of alienation and misery as human constructions that can be overcome through self-understanding and the acceptance of suffering. His five feature-length screenplays have won over 40 awards/honors at various international screenwriting competitions, and his novel DEVELOPING MINDS: AN AMERICAN GHOST STORY is a finalist in the 2015 Stargazer Literary Prizes for best Visionary and Metaphysical Fiction. He lives in San Diego and teaches at a public secondary school.
AUTHOR GUEST POST:
"How I Came up with the Idea for Developing Minds"
by Jonathan LaPoma
In 2009, I finished writing a novel based on my experiences living in Mexico for about five months after I graduated college. I was severely depressed and had a lot of dark thoughts, but something about Mexico seeped inside me and made me chose life. When I finished writing the novel, I thought I’d said what I’d wanted to say about life and my experiences with it. But, in July of 2012, I took a road trip to Big Sur, and on the ride up the Pacific Coast Highway, I got to thinking about my experiences teaching at an at-risk middle school in Miami in 2007—and the personal, professional, and creative growths I had there—and realized the story wasn’t over.
I started writing it almost immediately after I got back to San Diego and finished the first draft in about a month. Developing Minds is a sort of a loosely linked sequel to the Mexican novel, Understanding the Alacran and it shows the protagonist’s growth while trying to fit into society after returning from Mexico.
My intention with Developing Minds to demonize teachers or the public school system—I simply wanted to show a portrait of these as true to my experiences with them as possible, while showing how these experiences affected the main character’s maturation and eventual transformation as a writer.
Developing Minds is more a coming-of-age story than it is a story about teachers and teaching. But while the focus is on the protagonist’s growth, I did want to raise awareness for some of the issues plaguing the American public school system, because they’re important for people to see and because I felt there were some parallels between these issues and those affecting the protagonist’s development. Some of these issues include assessing labels to complex things which reduce them into easily-classifiable stereotypes, ignoring child abuse/neglect even when it’s painfully obvious, pushing kids to master subjects/tasks when they don’t have the requisite skills to do so and calling them failures when they don’t achieve.
On top of telling my story, with Developing Minds, I wanted to do two things: 1. Give readers a realistic portrait of what’s really going on in America’s public schools without exaggerating or romanticizing anything, 2. Challenge readers to think about the obstacles that may be blocking their own development on a personal, professional, and creative level.