The sixty-two short essays in "After the Bell" describe in many voices the emotional complexity and historical record of one experience most of us have in common: elementary and secondary school, from our first day all the way to graduation twelve years later. Whether public or private, rural or urban, school is the first place we navigate on our own, learning how we stand apart, how we stand out, and where we do - or don't - fit in. The essays are by emerging as well as established fiction writers, poets, social commentators, and educational theorists. Told from the point of view of students, teachers, parents, and administrators through the multiple perspectives of race, class, physical and intellectual abilities, and sexuality, the stories reveal how memories of our school days haunt and sustain us. As Naomi Shihab Nye notes, "there will never be a last day of school." That's the good news and the bad news about our common experience.
From the staunchly Lutheran brick schoolhouse of Garrison Keillor's New Albion Academy in 1948 to Annie Thoms' Manhattan high school at Ground Zero on September 11, 2001, from Alberto Rios' confusion as a bilingual child in a monolingual classroom to Henry Louis Gates' hard lessons in the segregated South, the essays in this funny, poignant, and stimulating collection capture the many public worlds of the school community as well as its idiosyncratic secrets.