In the summer of 2011, I stared at my blog and wondered if I could make a book of it. The wall I kept banging my head against was the idea that I’d get fired, piss every current and future employer with my critiques, and, offer no apology for the forthcoming expressions of passion for the work I do. By the time I set my heart to a manuscript, I partook in meetings that tested every limit of mine from a professional standpoint. As a teacher, I could close the doors shut (though I rarely did) and focus 150% of my attentions on my students and their needs (sometimes to the detriment of my own body). As a math coach, I had no choice but to listen to DOE rhetoric and the ways our system continued to perpetuate inequity through complex accountability schemes, the decimation of teacher morale, and the stunted voices of students and parents writ large.
The rest of the country was still catching up to the swindle, and I didn’t think the world would catch up fast enough.
Fast forward passed the thousands and thousands of words typed on this very keyboard, the plethora of friends and family who read over at least five different revisions of my first manuscript, the dozens of query letters I first wrote, the dozens of agents and publishing houses who rejected me, the tens of revised query letters I then wrote, the dozens of quasi-rejections under the guise of not knowing how to advertise these works, the eventual investigation into self-publishing, and the Hail Mary to Haymarket Books that eventually landed me a book deal. The first team phone call had me listening to the book’s promotion in a hotel. A few hours later, I was listening to David Coleman, Sue Pimentel, and Jason Zimba sell a handful of major districts the Common Core.
This is happening.
The meeting with my first editor Liliana Segura, the red marks scribbled all over my manuscript, the 15-minute walks telling myself “this is just part of the process, my man,” the forceful process of making myself a better writer while writing, the Anzalduas, Baldwins, Freires, Galeanos, and S. Carters-[Hamptons] I read while wrestling with my own experiences, my father passing as I almost tossed my laptop from tight deadlines, my quiet tears and rum and cokes while I reconsidered all this, and my bringing it all back to knowing I had to make Chicago Teachers Union Karen Lewis, NYU Professor Pedro Noguera, and my momma proud because these words will manifest regardless.
I was still teaching middle schoolers math 7:30am – 4pm, but don’t tell nobody because people of color aren’t supposed to work twice as hard at anything.
In 2014, when I held the first copy of my book, I didn’t want to hear anymore about my complicity with what Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Co. were doing to our schools across the country. I needed this book to be one hammer’s thunderous swing against the establishment. I didn’t want to hear about other people’s books for at least five months, with all due respect to Dana Goldstein (The Teacher Wars) and Elizabeth Green (Building a Better Teacher). I scoffed at people who barely put in the work and the toil, only to hear about their two-book deal from some major publisher. I bristled at the handful of people who said teachers shouldn’t have a voice except in the saccharine, puritan, white-washed arenas where we only get appreciated for a week, if that.
This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education. It is not easy to write a book. It is not easy to write well enough to write a book. It is not easy to write a book about the parts of your profession, your family, your body that you otherwise wouldn’t allow others to highlight and scribble through. It is not easy to speak the truth to people who willfully slight you, your community, your students for the express purpose of status quoing the true status quo. It is not easy facing your demons and dancing with them again just to remind you of what you’re writing. It is not easy to do this for purposes other than letting those pieces go.
It is not easy to say no whereas before you would have said yes.
But I did. Even though I want to tell you that it was a culmination of the things I write in this space, I also wanted to offer no surrender. I have no weapons but this book. I had no venue to talk about education but myself. If my “self” is all I had to offer, then the rest of the world and its eternal struggle would have to take that offering.