- A Recommendation.
- By Megan Laverty. Associate Professor of Philosophy and Education. Teachers College, Columbia University.
Letters of Recommendation is an epistolary novel in the tradition of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Julie ou la nouvelle Heloise and a Bildungsroman in the tradition of Rousseau’s Emile or on education. Letters are exchanged between a history high-school teacher, affectionately known as Doc, and one of her more promising students, Emilia. Their year-long correspondence provides an occasion for them to reflect on life’s philosophical questions: How important is self-formation? What is it to flourish as a human being? How are we to make sense of social injustice and inequity? Is friendship possible today? Maxine McClintock has written a humane and deeply moving novel that takes seriously the inner lives of adolescents and their over-burdened teachers. In Letters of Recommendation, she illuminates the educative power of interrogative, intergenerational dialogue. Doc shares stories of her own self-formation in an effort to respond to Emilia’s existential questions. Once shared, Doc’s memories give Emilia the confidence and understanding to reimagine her life as a journey of self-discovery. Emilia’s experience of school becomes infused with a sense of adventure. Letters of Recommendation is a testament to McClintock’s love of New York City with its frequent references to the city’s architecture, cultural diversity, vibrant history and educative force. Letters of Recommendation is a novel that stays with you. I highly recommend it to students and teachers alike.
Online booksellers carry Letters — Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Tower Books — and your favorite bookstore can order it for you — Letters of Recommendation by Maxine McClintock is published in The Reflective Commons (New York: Collaboratory for Liberal Learning, 2013). ISBN 978-1-937828-004, $24.95.