Thursday, July 25, 2019

Book Review: 'Goodbye Homeboy: How My Students Drove Me Crazy and Inspired a Movement' by Steve Mariotti (with Debra Devi)

Goodbye Homeboy by Steve Mariotti

‘Street smarts equal business smarts!’

Author Steve Mariotti is the founder of Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, or NFTE, with the mission to teach low-income children now to enter our economy and succeed. The evolution of this concept forms the story of this superb book – a story that combines Steve’s depth of knowledge and experience as an entrepreneur with his exceptional humanity, and he brings his concepts and achievements to life in this personally charged memoir, a ‘novel’ in essence that is rich in relating the lives of the street youths of New York as well as a fine sense of humor. Steve has published five books on the facets of entrepreneurship, and now he steps into the arena of sharing of a story that is both entertaining and inspiring. His co-author is Debra Devi.

Steve prepares us for the experience of his book: ‘One sunny September afternoon in 1981 I was jumped by six knife-wielding teenagers as I jogged along the East River. Plagued by debilitating nightmares and flashbacks after this attack, I took my therapist’s advice to face my fear perhaps a bit too literally. I closed my business and became a high school teacher, choosing to work in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. From 1982 to 1988, I taught primarily special ed in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn; the Lower East Side of Manhattan; and the decaying, gang-ridden section of the South Bronx that police had nicknamed “Fort Apache.” When I began teaching, I was rapidly driven to despair by my rowdy students. My classes devolved into pure chaos. I discovered, though, that whenever I talked about how to make money with a small business, my students were riveted. I had stumbled onto the truth. My students acted out in school because they were struggling with soul-crushing poverty and mortal danger around every corner. They saw zero connection between paying attention in school and improving their lives.’

And it is this nidus that bursts into bloom in this richly entertaining and emotionally charged book. Steve invites the reader to experience his life, his career, his traumatic experience, and his growth as an educator, ultimately becoming the spearhead for fostering the concept of teaching rowdy, low income students about entrepreneurship, awakening a passion for learning in them, and an eagerness to start their own small businesses and take charge of their lives.

The growth and maturation of a successful businessman whose life was changed after a mugging – a change that ultimately resulted in one of the more important movements in our educational philosophy – is the journey this fine book shares. Steve writes well, not only about his business concepts, but also about his impact on his students, as well as the reverse- the impact of his students on him, and it is this immediacy of communication that rivets the reader, informing as it entertains. Appropriately peppered with rasty street talk, Steve shares the process of his life. That is the ultimate goal of fine writing, and here it is. GOODBYE HOMEBOY is bound to become a best seller - and could become a fine screenplay…this century’s answer to Evan Hunter’s BLACKBOARD JUNGLE! Highly Recommended

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

Order it on Amazon today.
Two kings. Two princes. One queen. The true story of five aristocrats separated by time, culture, and circumstance -- all of them bound to the United States by accidents of history and left to hope for a tomorrow better than today. Prepare for a vision of the American Dream as few others have ever seen it.