"This book is special and could not be more right on time. 

An absorbing, tender, and surprisingly honest examination of race and privilege in America, READING WITH PATRICK helps articulate what is often lost, seemingly intentionally, in national debates over criminal justice and education: the inner life and imagination of a young person.”  

-- Wes Moore, author of The Other Wes Moore


Reading with Patrick in paperback:



Praise for Reading with Patrick

“…penetrating, haunting…unfolds with all the starkness and immediacy of a two-character play…impassioned writing and hard-earned wisdom set her book apart. In all of the literature addressing education, race, poverty, and criminal justice, there has been nothing quite like Reading With Patrick.”—James Forman Jr. & Arthur Evenchik, The Atlantic

"Anyone interested in questions of pedagogy, racism, and incarceration in America, not to mention literary criticism, will be enthralled by this book ... [I]t is hard to read this challenging book ... and not think, You must change your life."—James Wood, The New Yorker

"Every American should read Michelle Kuo's remarkable memoir. Honest, generous, humble and wise, READING WITH PATRICK will endure as a defining story for our times, and, abidingly, a testament to the power of language and of books."—Claire Messud, author of The Emperor’s Children and The Woman Upstairs

"Readers witness the transformative power of their moving lessons in both literature and life, lessons that endure and deepen in jail."—Nicole Lamy, The New York Times 

"Warmhearted but never sentimental, and acutely self-aware, Michelle Kuo’s memoir is the most profound, tender, and intensely moving portrait of a student-teacher relationship I’ve ever read. It shows how deeply a student and teacher can change each other’s lives. Kuo knows the complications and the limits of helping, but she is brave and generous and stubborn enough to do it anyway."—Larissa MacFarquhar, author of Strangers Drowning

"Michelle Kuo takes on the subjects of race, privilege and the debt that the human community owes to its most disadvantaged members with a bracing intelligence, honesty and self-scrutiny. This is a gorgeous, urgent and heartbreaking memoir."—Darcy Frey, author of The Last Shot

“Riveting . .  an essential addition to our national conversation about institutional racism. It is also an empathic story of connection: between a dedicated teacher and her student, between history and our current times, and between literature and life. It is hard to imagine a more inspiring testament to the transformative power of reading.”—Elliot Holt, author of Pushcart Prize-winning You Are One of Them

“This memoir of teaching literature in one of the poorest counties in America is a reminder of how literacy changes lives. Highly recommended.”—Library Journal (starred review)

"The invitation and reminder of Reading With Patrick could not be more timely. Michelle Kuo invites us all to exquisite mutuality with each other and underscores the power of tender attention. She compellingly shows us that we don't go to the margins to rescue anyone. But if we go there, go figure ... we all find rescue."—Father Gregory Boyle, author of Tattoos on the Heart and founder of Homeboy Industries, a renowned gang-intervention program

"Honest, thoughtful, and humane, Kuo’s book is not only a testament to a remarkable friendship, but a must-read for anyone interested in social justice and race in America."—Kirkus Reviews

"Michelle Kuo’s Reading with Patrick is a strikingly candid and insightful meditation on the relationship between a young teacher and a former student as they read together while the student awaits trial for murder in a Southern jail. Compulsively readable, the book manages to do two extraordinary things at once:  it offers a poignant and moving account of a specific relationship, and it grapples searchingly with universal themes around families, race, poverty, teaching, and the power of literature. The book will continue to resonate long after you have put it down and returned to the everyday—this is what the best books, the best teachers, do."—Carol Steiker, Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law, Faculty Co-Director, Criminal Justice Policy Program, Harvard Law School

“Reading with Patrick could be the most affecting book you’ll read this year. To experience such a spectrum of responses—from anger to admiration, disbelief to inspiration, helpless frustration to stand-up-and-shout-cheering—should be enough impetus to get you urgently ‘reading with Patrick’ as soon as possible.”The Christian Science Monitor

A powerful meditation on how one person can affect the life of another . . . One of the great strengths of Reading with Patrick is its portrayal of the risk inherent to teaching.”—The Seattle Times

“While her favorite student awaits trial for murder in an Arkansas jail ... Kuo steps in as Patrick's only support. Bonding over a shared appreciation for James Baldwin and Frederick Douglass, the two embrace the written word as a 'refuge, a separate place,' in this tender memoir of their time together.”—O: The Oprah Magazine ("10 Titles to Pick Up Now") 

"A moving and important work at a time when America remains gripped with inner turmoil."—The Scottish Herald

"Tender and gritty, with reflections on race and justice and pedagogy, Reading with Patrick is a paean to literature, to caring and to Forster's maxim, 'Only connect.'"—Shelf Awareness

"Reading with Patrick, Michelle Kuo's rich memoir of her literary friendship with a student in a small town in the Mississippi Delta, suggests that it is perhaps more than anything a book’s ability to make its reader feel valuable that keeps us reading ... The act of reading gave her students the chance to think of themselves as able; it gave space, attention and value to their interior lives ... Instead of the tidy moral, Kuo offers a much more complex and more troubling story."—Times Literary Supplement

"Reading with Patrick is as much about growing up Asian in America as it is about growing up black and impoverished ... [Kuo's] story is exceptional."—Providence Journal  

"In many ways ... [Kuo's] lifelong job is to be a teacher: not just of Patrick and her students in Helena, but of us, as readers, because Kuo understands that teaching is a daily act of self-transformation, negotiation and witnessing."—America Magazine  

“I delighted in this book and read it in a single weekend. Reading with Patrick is a significant work that could swell the ranks of highly motivated and qualified teachers—people who understand they are not just transferring information but transforming lives.”—Bill Moyers