by Max Brantley
When did you first get the idea to write this book?She calls her book a story about the failure of education and criminal justice systems and the legacy of slavery.
When I found out Patrick had been arrested, I was totally shocked and devastated, and flew from Boston to Arkansas to visit him in jail. I started writing these really long letters to my friend. They were my way of sorting out whether I had let Patrick down. Patrick was a student I had poured all these hopes into. I had even made this promise to him — and I’m probably more careful now about the promises I make — that I would stay in Arkansas to watch him graduate. I motivated him, and he started coming to school every day and doing really well. So then I decided to leave Arkansas, which is a place that outsiders who have come in tend to leave. Only the heroes tend to stay.