Against a White Sky: A Memoir of Closets and Classrooms

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Artemis Press, 2004 - Biography & Autobiography - 186 pages
In Against a White Sky, Laurie Stapleton reveals her experiences as a gay high school teacher in an "All-American" city with honesty and humor. Having spent most of her young adult life in Santa Cruz, California-a beach town accepting of its large lesbian community-Laurie relocates to the more conservative San Joaquin Valley to enroll in an accelerated teacher credentialing program. There, Laurie discovers she is the only woman who regularly wears slacks. She decides she'd better change the way she dresses, walks and talks to feel socially comfortable-and maybe even safe. Laurie becomes certified to teach public high school within a year. Mindful of recent bouts with poverty and low self-esteem, she accepts the first teaching offer she receives-a public high school deeper in the heart of the valley, in a city voted "All-American." Despite her struggle to sway students' and teachers' attention from her sexual identity, they seem to "know" anyway, as evidenced by homophobic slurs she hears in the school halls, and snickers from the student-athletes she coaches. Eventually she asks herself the hard questions: why she choose to live and teach in a town in which she is at best ignored, and at worse harassed, because of her sexual orientation? What is the meaning behind the irony that, as she helps her students discover their voices, she is silencing her own? Through honest self-reflection, Laurie discovers that her experiences ten years earlier as both a high school dropout and an emancipated minor presented some difficult obstacles-and helped her to see into the hearts of her own students. Through her challenging teaching experiences and personal reflections, Laurie begins to cultivate asense of "home within" while simultaneously discovering new directions educators might take towards fostering more inclusive values and respectful attitudes.

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