and, again, i just mentioned a couple of folks who are here and think about how we can make investments in long-term relationships that actually build that kind of trust over time. and i think there's definitely a lot of work for us to do there. i think there's certainly a role for humanitarian work in our foreign policy that, um, a lot of times is -- we often don't think about it because it's not pressing, it's not right in front of us. in order to make that kind of investment, you have to be thinking ten and twenty years down the road, and i think that we do have to do that, absolutely. ..
those guys -- they avoid us downrange because they don't want to be stigmatized by the military or the uniform. i think a northwestern your position, having hybridized. >> thank you very much, i appreciate that. and i have not been approached, yet, about that. i certainly would be willing to offer my services, and i think there are actually a lot of
people in this generation, especially in this generation of veterans who have come back and taken a different look at what is happening in places like iraq and afghanistan, southeast asia, the horn of africa, who are open to thinking about the wider approach, about how you actually create peace overseas, and so i certainly think that it's there. thank you for the comment about james. i keep my friend john roy -- john just -- i keep a coin in my pocket about -- with james -- sometimes -- never forget in memory of our foreign brothers, and what we try to do with them, the greatest thing we can do for someone like james, is to actually live their values. and if we're living the value of james, we're living the values of travis, we know we're doing them a great honor, and we also know we're going to be making ourselves better as well.
so thank you very much. [applause] >> thank you. >> for more about eric greitens and his work, visit eric ericgreitens.com. >> up next, brooke hauser documents a year at international high school in new york city, where 28 languages are spoken and none of the student body are native english speakers. she reports on the societal obstacles the students space the different journeys they took arrive here in the united states. >> okay. good evening.
i'm the director here, and welcome to the powerhouse arena. we're extremely excited to have tonight the book launch party for brooke hausers 0 new book, "the new kids: big dreams and brave journeys at a high school for immigrant teens." we'll be in conversation and have a short q & a, and briefly introduce brooke hauser. she has rent for the anytime, the "los angeles times" and is originally from miami, florida, and now lives in new york, and then north massachusetts. francis worked as a columnist and editor at the "new york times" for 17 years and is the editor of the home section. he does teaching at the new york
university. we will -- just a quick reminder, please turn off your cell phones, and c-span is filming the event so for the q & a we'll pass around the microphone so wait for the microphone to reach you and then ask your question. thank you so much. and now please welcome brooke hauser. [applause] >> so suzanne said, we're here to discuss brooke's new book, and it's about just to give a capsule summary, a high school in brooklyn called the international high school, which specializes in the education of immigrant teens, and brooke spent much time at the school, chronicling a year in its life and the life of its seniors, and
i wanted to -- brooke will do a reading of a portion later, but i wanted to ask a few little introductory questions. the first of which is, brooke, you're an experienced journalist. you've written a lot about hollywood and about film. this is a subject matter that is far afield from that. how did you come to this topic? >> actually, the person who led me to the international school is in the audience, his name is ronny saja, and he we went to come together and he was working at the international rescue committee, which is an agency that helps to resettle refugees across the country, and at the time his girlfriend lauren was interested in doing some volunteer work with some of the students at the bronx international high school, and i heard about the school, and i became very interested in this idea of a high school where kids come from so many different
countries and speak so many different languages and are all -- i don't want to say they're all trying to become american because not all of the kids are, but they're adopting to the country while going to high school. so i found out there's an international nursing school my backyard, and that's how i ended up at the school. >> great. for me, at least, for this reader, the standout feature of this book is its factual richness. it's to me an example of really good emerging reporting like barbara, aaron reich, or adrian nicole, you can tell everywhere that the depths of -- from the depths of detail how much time was spent collecting, interviewing, recording, thinking, and so i naturally wondered how much time did you spend, how many days were you at
the school? how many students did you interview? and how did you decide what what enough? >> i don't know how i decided what was enough. i think that my depth desk decided because it was caving in with my notes. i was at the school for an article i wrote for -- frank was an editor at the city next of "the new york times" and i wrote about the prom at the high school, and spent a few months and went back for the book and spent a year reporting. then the following year i was in touch with the kids, and the following year i was still in touch with the kids and reporting basically went to the printer, so it was a lot of time, a lot of notes, and my life was on hold basically until it was finished. >> at the international high school, something like 28 languages are spoken, or were at
least in the year you reported on. that must have been a reporting challenge for you. >> yeah. >> how did you deal with that? >> i took a lot of aspirin because i think the teachers can relate. it's really, really loud at this school. it's loud at any high school, but when you hear 28 languages at once in the halls, it's just -- it's amazing. so, the kids were a huge help to me because several of the students who i wrote about were already very, very proficient in english, and of course their native language, and some spoke several native languages and they were translators for me. so anytime i ran into a translation problem, i didn't have to hire a formal translator. i just asked the kids. >> as-how many students are there at that time? >> 400. the school had been in existence for one -- for four years.
i was there, i think, the fifth year. so the class -- the student body kept growing, but now i think it was the biggest class ever that was just accepted this year, and it's something around 400 students now, i think. right? >> how among all those students did you choose the ones you would talk to and interview and then write about in your book? >> i had a question that i asked all of the teachers at the beginning of the year, which was, when you go home at night, who are the students you can't stop think about? and really the teachers led me to find these students, and one girl from china had written a college essay about coming to america, her very first week she was supposed to move in with her father, who she hadn't seen in years, and when she got there on her first day, her new stepmother basically didn't want her there and kicked her out.
and she was -- when i met her, living on her own in a room she rented in chinatown. so for one english teacher that was the student she couldn't stop think about when she went home at night, and every other student i found that way. except for a burmese girl, and i found it interesting that she was the only person in the whole school who spoke her language, no one else did. so i thought she would be an interesting person to follow. >> i know many of these students, like the chinese girl you mentioned, had very dramatic passages from their native country to america. and i believe isn't that the subject of your reading in. >> so many of the kids have a amazing stories and the one i wanted to read was about a tibetan boy who left tibet as a
little boy, escaped by hiding in the suitcase to travel the border of nepal. so he and i worked pretty hard on his story to get all the facts straight, and that's what i'm going to read. >> okay. get in, the man said, motioning on a small suitcase on the ground. i was the fall of 2003. about two years before he would arrive at international. and they were standing on a quiet side street. he looked at the man and back at the suitcase. the man was his father's friend. a farmer with a wide tan face filled with worry in the encroaching dawn. the suitcase looked very fancy, black nylon, plastic hasn't bar, rubber wheels. he had never touched a suitcase and he inspected is closely.
there was some chinese lettering on it that he could not read. the main compartment was two by three feet, the size of a child's coffin. he was small for 11. but he wasn't that small. he thought the farmer most but joking. the black suitcase would soon be one of many bags stacked in the back seat of a beatup silver toyota that was supposed to deliver him to the border of nepal. the first leg of a journey that would end in india. in the tea-colored light he could make out a few tired faces, older tibetans who paid to drive out of the town before the capitol city stretched out of its slumber. he was about to join the others when the farmer motioned toward the suitcase. get in, he said, unzipping the top. he stared blankly at the man and the suitcase. herry, the farmer said, before the police come and take to us jail. >> how long, he hisserred?
>> one night and one day. that was how long it would take to travel from the capital to the border, assuming they didn't get caught. the actual distance was much shorter but the driver would be sir circumventing chinese checkpoints they didn't have much time. the city was still dark but soon the sun would rise, shining a spot light on anyone who dared to flee. he got in. he imagined himself back in his grandma's white bed where he slept with his older brother and their little cousins only a few weeks before. inside the suitcase, he crunched his knees to his chest and locked to the side. for a brief moment he saw the farmer's face. like a field under a passing cloud. then there was a zipping sound and everything went black. nine hours into the journey, he vomited. the bitter remnants of a black
tea and barley breakfast singing his throat. 1 hours in he urinate, gush of warm liquid rushing down his leg, pooling in his sneakers. in he dark, his tears flowed in uncharted directions. when the suitcase first closed he felt squared but strong. he wore the white silk scarf his grandmother placed around his neck. crossing his hand between his knees he whispered a buddhist prayer. those were the last words he spoke. he was afraid to make a sound in the village he heard tales about tibetans who were caught by chinese police. friend told him about prisoners who had been beating with clubs, shot out and subjected to strange torture techniques, and he imagined police hammering the sharpened rods under very
victim's fingernails. he couldn't hear anyone. within seconded of the zipper zipping, he lost control of his senses. he couldn't see but he smelled the gasoline leaking from the car engine. half of his body went cold. the half that was closest to the icy ground. he tried moving his arm and leg on his other side but found that he was trapped. something had fallen on him but he wasn't sure what. sounded like a dead body but then he realized it was the sound of suit casss stacking. in, out, in, out, breathing had become an impossible task, it was hard to believe it had ever been automatic. the more he thought about it, the more he panicked, gasping for air. his right arm ached from pushing up against the weight of the other suitcases piled on top of his own. his left arm was froze 'against the cold car floor. he heard the engine spotter to a halt at what must have been the
police check points, and clinched his fist until it started again. thundering in his ear. he summoned a world beyond his own eye lids. the monks and soldiers who crowded the streets would be far behind them. sometimes his thoughts drifted to his grandmother. his own mother died three days after he was born. mashi suckled him with the glass bottle filled with milk from a yak. when the village women were unable to breast feed. the day he left the village, mashi cooked a meal of dumplings and bitter tee. one last taste of moment before they headed west. in the blackness of the suitcase, he could see her standing in the tall grass, waving goodbye. since the dalai lama fled in 1959, tens of thousands of
tibetans have followed his path to india. he knew their stories. he heard about the men and whim who crossed the himalayas, many dying of starvation or getting trapped in the ice. for years his father planned his own escape and he was the first of the family to flee. arriving in america in 2003. a few months later he sent for his two sons. he caught pieces of the plans from neighbors whenever they came back from the nearest district with a phone. they would ride on horse to a town where they would board a bus to the county and get on a truck headed for the capital. after getting their bearings they were supposed to join up with a paid guide to make the trek across the mountains to the border. if they made it that far and the man would great them. for 2500 yen per boy he would pose as their grandfather and he would be waiting with a piece of
coal and a car. the car was supposed to transport the brothers to a tibetan refugee center kathmandu. the call was for them to paint their faces a shade dark sore they would look more like nepali children. tibet continue children are known for ruddy cheeks, the extra blood flow from the high altitude and low oxygen of the plateau. plateau red the chinese called: the first part of the journey had gone as planned but then the plan changed. the farmer told him he had gone to see an oracle earlier that day. he had never met one but knew they were wise men that traveled between the physical and divine world and could see into the future. the farmer passed on the oracle's message, the older and bigger brother should walk through the mountains with a paid guide. a trek that could span thousands of miles in several weeks.
nwang was too small he went survive. the oracle said come with me in the car, the farmer explained. nwangs father talked but how tiny he was when he was born. he fit into two outstretched palms. not much larger than the potatoes in their field. the llama gave him a big name. nwang. loosely translated, it meant, voice of power, never stuck. several thousand miles west of where he was born, his english teacher, anne perry, sits as glasstop table in the shade of her backyard and reads the paragraph before her. the suitcase closed, and i went blind. my body was squeezing under mansuete cases -- many suitcasei can barely breathe.
i felt depressed and hot. i just wanted to escape but many suitcases were stacked on me. i was enteting. i wanted to scream but i knew it would be worst. they could go after my sweet grandma and hurt her because she was sending me to freedom. could i get beat up or killed. i knew i would never get to see my single dad. i would never achieve what my mom explode my grandma's hoped, so i made my hands fists and breathed strongly. it is 7:00 a.m., and the october sun blinks in the clouds like a cursor on a blank page. ann's cereal is getting soggy and her coffee is lukewarm. in between sips from her favorite glazed mug she stairs at the purple morning glories creeping up her chain link fence and back at the college essay. a suit and they he is lucky to have survived. rating pen in hand she tries to imagine an 11-year-old balled up in the darkness, his fists
clenched. surely he understands things about life she doesn't. or does he. his ending is brief. he is in the suitcase and then he is in india. anne never learn what happened next as plans met the nepally man at the border, desguyed with the coal, switched cars and headed to kathmandu. his brother wasn't so fortunate on his first attempt to make it to the border. he was arrested and jailed by chinese police. the boys later reunited, and in 2005, they joined their father in the united states where they were granted political asylum. clearly nwang's story is too complex to squeeze it all into a three-page college essay but there's no final message no deeper sense of understanding, in the minutes before she heads to school, ann wonders about the father who also fled, the mother who died, and the grandmother
whom nwang might never see again. he wonders about his daily life in eastern tibet where he worked on his family's farm. was he still the same boy when he emerged from the suitcase 24 hours later? he never says. the editor in anne sees a story with a great hook but an emotionally limited narrator who hasn't begun to impact the event. then she remembers, nwang is only 17. it's easy to forget sometimes but the tee tame they walk into room 337 on the first day of senior year many stupids had already survived more trauma and hardships than she could imagine. but that hasn't necessarily made them wiser and she doesn't see her kids as victims. when ann looks at nwang she doesn't see the boy in the suit kiss -- suitcase but a punky kid in a t-shirt with the message, hate you. she seize teenager who is starting to turn in his
assignments life and would rather read the new york post-than pay attention in class. he could seriously fall behind in college if he doesn't make an attitude adjustment quick. she sees a boy who is much more than a myth and much less. [applause] >> it's those details like plateau red and the purple morning glories that are the kinds of emerging reporting -- fruits of emerging reporting that you can see in that passage. wow, what story. in a suitcase. over the mountains. over national borders, waiting for the police. you went to high school here in america, in a fairly normal high school compared to that.
>> yes. >> how was the big picture of the high school there with children like him, so traumatized by events in their past? >> how was -- >> how was the international high school compared to the sort of standard stereo type high school that we would think of here? >> well, that's why i was so drawn to the school, is because even though the kids do have really -- some of them have really amazing stories of how they got here in perilous journeys and different backgrounds, they're still teenagers, and i could relate to them very easily because i think we can all relate to going to high school in america, and even though it's an international high school, it's not that different. they still -- the prom is definitely different than my prom, but they have to deal with s.a.t.s and prom and facebook
and so i think big picture, they're not so different at all. but their backgrounds certainly are different. >> where there cliques? >> i spent a lot of time in the cafeteria and looking for the mean girls and the jobs and all these groups that make for a good gossip and fun in high school. and i don't really think i ever found mean girls. maybe a couple of mean girls but not like the movie mean girls, the groups hanging out today. there will definitely jobs. some of the dominican boys all played baseball together and maybe they would be considered jobs. but then there was a group i never had at high school, which was a group of boys who all
wanted to grow up and become professional hair designers, and i'm still not sure what that is. but they had amazing hair. it was -- i mean, really. and then was a table of know maddic yak herders, and farmers. previous, not miami, -- not anymore, obviously. >> did the students gather by ethnicity? was there a lot of mixing of different ethnicity? obviously the cultural issues are vastly different. >> i would say in the cafeteria, if there were groups, they divided according to ethnicity. and i think that the school wants to see the kids mix, and they do mix in classes, but given to their own devices, during free time and lunch, i
think it's natural to -- especially if your learning english, it's natural to go towards friends who speak your language so you can just relax a little bit and feel very comfortable speaking in your native language. so you saw definitely cliques of kids from africa, west africa, kids from mexico and guatemala who could speak span spanish together, and kids who were no mads and want kerred around the cafeteria and talked to anybody. >> did you find that -- obviously the story of the suit kaatz and other stories, you're dealing with teenagers who are changing every day. there were language issues you had. part of adolescence and teenagerness is embellishing the truth. at a journalist, the issue of verification, did you face
obstacles, troubles, worries about that? >> definitely a lot of worries, and i have a section in the back of the book where i say, basically, you know, i did the best to my ability to report things as accurately as possible, but all human memory is flawed, and i was talking to teenagers who were recalling events from their childhood that happened a long time ago, that happened in another country, and they're now telling me these stories in a new country, speaking a new language, english. so, i think that probably a lot was lost in translation and transit. so i wanted to explain that, this is pretty close. with nwang's story, for instance, you know, i think he had told it so many times that a lot of details were either lost or just -- i think that when i
sat down with him to get the story from top to bottom, a lot of new stuff came out because i wasn't just talking to him. i went to his house and he lived with a bunch of tibetan bachelors, including his father who had a girlfriend, and we had dipper, and i had yak butter tea but with not the yak butter. that was intense, butter tea, it's like butter tea, and so over butter tea, basically five or six men were trying to help flesh out not just his story but trying to tell me their story how they left tibet, and they were speaking in tibetan, and nwang had to translate six people talking at the same time. so that was a little confusing. and people started drawing maps, and then the maps were great. then i realized all the labels they had written in tibetan, and if you looked at the map online,
those village names were written in chinese, and it was like -- >> right, right. >> it was difficult. >> so the art of the possible, i guess. >> so we just went over at it million times, and that was one time i heard the story, and then i heard the story about ten more times, and asked his father about it again, and met with nwang three more times to just go over everything. >> right. there's the issue of immigration is obviously a huge and perennial political issue, and teenagers. so, how did you -- you tell wonderful stories in the book. how did you decide -- how much did you devote, how much space the bigger social political context and how did you decide how much that should be? >> i didn't devote a lot of time to political issues. i devoted a couple of -- maybe a chapter or two.
one, because unlike a newspaper article that comes out that day and talks about the issue of the day, book comes out and a lot of the issues aren't relevant anymore, depending on legislation that has been passed. my editor was very helpful in reminding me of that. and then when i did get into more of a political discussion, it grew naturally out of a scene that happened in the book. so, there's a chapter called, illegal, where the scene take place at the school. one night they hosted a pta meeting, unlike any other pta meeting you ever heard of expect , and it wasn't bake sale and cookies. is was illegal immigration and parents were invited to ask any questions they had, and the principal at the time gave an
introduction in english and in spanish and other translators there who were able to translate the conversation in many different languages, and two immigration lawyers came in to talk, and one of them handled out a packet of cartoon drawings for the parents who didn't speak english, called, that would do in the event of an immigration raid. and -- >> not your bake sale topic. >> no. it showed graphic novel drawings of i.c.e. agents -- like, with dark shades and chiseled jaws, shackling immigrants in their own homes, and carting them away to detention centers. you saw the story in every frame, and then in another frame you saw what hoped to their cartoon wifes and cartoon tears on their cheeks and it was really intense, so definitely
part of the story grew out of that chapter. it was natural to talk about it. >> so that fit into your narrative and you were able to nod toward that. >> the dream act, i talked about, which is the piece of legislation that wasn't passed finally, that would put it very basically, would create a conditional path to citizenship for certain undocumented students who came here before the age of 16. and it would allow them to get federal financial aid to go to college. so that was natural because the kids -- there were 15% of the senior class was undocumented, which is a huge number, and they were all applying to college like all the other kids. they worked just as hard, did just as much studying, they took tests, and then at the end of the senior year they were basically in a very difficult position where -- college is expensive if you don't get federal financial aid. it's not likely you're going to get to go.
>> have you followed the fortunes of those students? >> yeah. i mean, the way i've -- i've stayed in touch with certain students more than others. then i'm on facebook with, like, half of the high school. i get wind of things from facebook. and people have ended up all over the place. a lot of kids are doing really well in lots of different ways and areas. >> right. many of the students -- i'm sure not all -- but many of them seem to endearing and their stories so dramatic, i wonder if it was hard to maintain journalistic distance? >> yes. >> it was? how did you deal with that or did you just keep struggling? >> it was a struggle. i really liked the kids and liked the teachers, too, and at times i kind of just wanted to be friends with everybody but i cooperate because -- couldn't because i was writing about system always tried in the past to not get too close to the subjects. but it's different when you're writing about kids.
it feels a little different. you are more invested, i think, in the lives of kids if you're writing about them. so i had definite boundaries, but if someone needed help with a college essay, i wouldn't write it for them. maybe have a few notes in the margin or something. i would allow myself to do stuff like that. but i was invited to parties and dinners, and i could never fully relax. i could never really drink as much as i wanted to, or -- it was just very -- i wanted them to be friends but couldn't let them be friends at that point. and since then i think i've developed some friendships with people who i met at the school. but i had to be done with the book first. >> know that some of the students were -- are from cultures that involve arranged marriages. did any of them ask your advice about those questions and how did you --
>> they didn't ask my advice, no, about arranged marriage, but a few of the girls were really interested in when i was going to get married. so we definitely talked about marriage, and they -- my husband and i were married now, but we'd been together for nine or ten years, and one of the girls, a girl from yemen, who got married during her senior year, and another girl, the girl from china, said they were going to come over one day and ask my husband -- my boyfriend when he was going propose. they're very interested. and they did it to all their teachers. they were asking their english teachers when they're going to have babies. they got started earlier than we did. so, not advice but definitely shared funny conversations, i guess. >> were you accepted by the students? were you able to -- did nip resent you or was there suspicion? >> i'm sure there was suspicion,
and i may not have heard about all of it. there were definitely a few cool boys who -- well -- >> that's an answer. >> once i met with the students to a pharmacy to run somer rans. he was buying signature -- cigarettes or something, and i the clerk at the store said i see you brought your mom with you. and then -- yeah, i -- they did accept me, i would say. a couple of the cool boys would say, oh, don't talk to that lady. she's got a notebook and is writing down everything you say. so, certain people kept a wide berth. but most of the kids were eager to talk about their stories. >> right. the hardest thing about writing for me, at least, is leaving stuff out because you can't just go on and on. so you did so much reporting,
i'm sure that this book is a small percentage of what you learned. so, what was most painful thing for you to leave out? >> well, i had a pet theme -- the teacher who was in charge of the newspaper club that year, and i really loved spending time with the kids in newspaper club because i was in newspaper club. one of those things i could relate to. and they had a lot of fun with it. they wrote some interesting articles that would only, i think, be -- come out of english language learners who were writing a paper for other english language learners. so they were explaining things that american high school kids, kids were born here, wouldn't have to explain so one year a kid did a primer on what is hip-hop and explained the him and the hop -- the hip and the hop and another did a primer on
fashion, and another girl wrote a whole -- a huge environmentalist. she wrote a whole article about global warming. so, i thought there was great stuff there. but i just -- it was cutting into some of the story. it was too much scene and not enough story. >> right. the school is the center of this, of course, and it's right in brooklyn in prospect heights. you do take some trips outside the school to the town in connecticut, farmington, where one student lived, and to jessica, the chinese girl's, apartment. did you make more forays? how was it difficult to keep the school as the center? >> with the boy who lived in farmington -- boy came here from sierra lee on in round-about ways and came here basically on not a scholarship but he won a
contest, but bought him a ticket to live with a christian family in connecticut. even though hi was muslim. he kind of put his differences aside and lived in farmington, connecticut, chase very, very wealthy town, and he was coming from the poorest place, and it was dropped in his town, a muslim boy who suddenly is at church on sunday. and that was fascinating. i got so wrapped up in his story and that's one hover the -- one of the kids who is very charming, i liked very much, and i think that i got a little lost with his story. just put so much in the book and then my editor, and i think the publisher, read his story and realized it was taking over the entire book, and there's still a lot of his story in there but i had to cut it down. >> but i guess there are alternative ways to tell the st. did you ever think about telling the whole story through one person?
>> his whole story? >> just the story, the story of this book, you know? >> oh, like not following several kids but one kid? >> yes. did that ever occur to you? specially him. >> a few of the kids could have their own books. definitely. but to me what was interesting is just this clash of cultures, they're all under the same roof together. so, i always wanted to have a few of the kids. and one of my favorite relationships in the book is the chinese girl who became good friends with the yemeni girl, and i like each student brought out something in another student who was very different but not that different. >> and of course the students are the stars. but you also spoke with parents. was that a difficult thing? presumably language is even more
difficult for many of them, and -- >> the kid helped me traps late. it was just difficult a little bit talking to jessica's father because he is the one who let his new wife kick her out of their apartment her first week in america. so i think he felt very guilty, but at the same time i think he had his own story that he wanted to share, and he was not a bad man. he is a complex character. so, it was difficult talking to him, and sometimes jessica would be listening to our conversations and he would say things to me about her that he would never tell her directly, like she's my daughter, i lovemer. i would do anything -- and i think that he wouldn't say that her, but she would eavesdrop on our conversation.
>> did you have any suspicions or preconceptions before you went in that got exploded as you reported the story? >> those cliques were something, and then struggled with other things, like there are few girls from west africa who had got married and who had babies during high school, and you hear about teen moms and then it's taboo, you know, i think we all have ideas about what a teen mom is, but these girls were very different. i think that for some of the girls -- i mean they clearly meant to get married and the babies came after the marriage, and one of the girls was a top student in her grade, was very smart, very successful in school, and so it was difficult for me to -- i was happy that she was doing so well, but it did make me -- how did she do that? and in her culture maybe this is
normal. so it wasn't so stigmatized. i don't know. she was very capable. >> do you think you will continue reporting and writing about this subject? teens or immigrants? >> i hope. so i'm really interested in the subject. i love -- always been interested in immigration. i traced my own family's genealogy, i'm interested and i like kids, so it was natural intersection. we'll see. >> great. so i think some questions from the audience. there are any audience members who have a question for brooke? about the writing of it or about the contents of it?
>> as a writer, what do you think the experience of writing this book has done for you in terms of growing in your craft? >> that's ha hard question. i just -- i think that writing a book is really hard, and i was always looking for, like, the -- how do other people do this? and i realized that along the way, while i was writing, i saw the woody allen movie, whatever works, and that came by hollow. i learned you just have to keep at it until it works. so i don't really have a great answer to that. it's just -- you know, you find a way and you make a lot of mistakes and there are a lot of drafts and you have to throw out a lot of scened and cut things, and it's difficult. i think what realized is that writing is difficult. so not to beat myself up about it, and i told the kids the same
thing. a lot of the kids find writing difficult, and i told them, that's good, you should find it difficult because it is. >> others? other questions? >> whatever happened to nwang? >> he is at syracuse university. he is -- he got a bunch of loans to go there and he's doing really well, and he -- you know, he's studying international real estates. he wanted to be an actor during high school so he got accepted into this adler academy. the current principal, her husband martin took head shots, and he dreamt of being an actor, now he is very political. he was mr. free tibet at the
high school, and i'm sure that he is going to 'still be very active with tibetan causes and i'm sure he is doing that at syracuse. he is doing all right. [inaudible] >> jessica is also doing really well. she is at drexel, and she is in the business and engineering program, and i think she is still with her high school boyfriend -- no. sorry. oops. gossip. never mind. >> oh, she is doing great she just asked me to write -- to be a reference for her, for a job interview. so that he had that's the kind of thing want to do more of, now that the book is done, i can do little things like that and it's easy for me. and she is doing really well.
>> hey, brooke. my question was actually about education in general right now, because is there very intriguing political times and education gets a lot of attention in the press, both negative and positive. i wanted to ask you what you thought about how your book will leave an impression in that argument and what your impression is about the successes new york city schools can have. >> a few of the reviews of the book have said that this is an uplifting book about education in a time where there's a lot of bad news. so that makes me happy because i think that the school does a great job, and i love the school. i gave the commencement speech
for graduation, and i told the kids the school is one of my favorite places on earth, which is try. i'm not an education report sore i can't speak about my views on education with a lot of expert, too but -- expertise but i know a about english language learners and i went to school in miami where there are lots of english language learners and they're were segregated in our school. and i think those kids get left out. really dependses on the school. in this school, all of the kids were learning english together, all mixed together, and i felt that approach worked because the kids are very understanding of each other. one thing you notice, in most middle schools, i think kids just torment each other, and at this school they really help.
i mean issue couldn't believe it sometimes. they seemed much -- i don't know. they seemed too good to be true sometimes. they really do help each other out. older kids will tutor younger kids, and they seem invested in each other's success. i thought that the bench national model seems to work. -- i thought the international model seems to work. >> first actually at the end of the year i donated a couple of dresses to the high school. i sent an e-mail to my office so you can imagine my funny reaction i got. this guy asking for dresses. i actually mentored for on organization called "new york needs you" a program for first generation college students, a lot of which are international. and i've been privy to conversations they have in terms
of the opportunities that this country allows no, matter where you come from. maybeup got the smarts and the knack to work hard, you will get it. were you privy to such conversations in your high school between different kids? >> can you repeat the question? >> i guess the perception about what opportunities they were actually afforded. >> the international network for public schools is the organization that oversees these international high schools, and the model for the network is opening doors to the american dream, and the kids took this model so literally, i cannot tell you. it was amazing and inspiring, and i met the first year i was there reporting the prom story there was a chinese boy who his -- there are kids who wanted to be doctors and lawyers and engineers. then there was a chinese boy who what unwavering in his dream to be the next dog whisperer and he
went after it. in terms of the dog groomer and he loved dogs and this is what he wanted to do. and then the year i was reporting for the book, there was a boy from africa who wanted to be a zoologist and an actor at the same time. and actually i don't know what is happening with his zoology. he is going the university of vermont now. but he won the seinfeld scholarship. got a full free ride to college, and he met jerry seinfeld at tavern on the green, and he told jerry seinfeld, i'm going to be the next jerry seinfeld. i mean, they really believe they can do anything. a lot of the kids do. and it's amazing. and they do. they do. they go on to do great things. that year five kids got in the seinfeld scholarship and all got a free rides. people get the gates
scholarship. people respond to that kind of optimism and hope they see in students, and people like the students. i really liked the students. i don't know if i like all high school students but i definitely liked a lot of the ones i met at the international school. >> hi, brooke. i have two questions. first i wondered if you face -- seems like the students and teachers are very forthcoming more or less. did you face some bureaucracy within the school administration and son and so forth? and then just getting back to the writing question first, when you were -- during the process i wondered if you took refuge in or inspiration from other authors and books. >> the school was very open with me. i think writing the prom article helped because it was very positive article, and the founding principal at the school really let me spend a lot of
time at the high school, and the new principal at the school let me spend a lot of time at the high school, and so i think there's a certain amount of trust there that had happened with the prom article. and so they were great. and then as for books i read, i read among school children, about a -- i forget what agreed she teaches, third grade. a about a teacher who teaches in massachusetts, and that's by tracy kidder, and then small victories by sam freedman, which he also follows a teacher, a high school teacher, in the lower east side, who teaches immigrants but not at an official international high school. so i read both of those. but they really focused on the teachers and i wanted to focus on the kids. then frank mentioned adrian nicole, and this is very different from random family.
i read a lot of great nonfiction. >> brooke, romance among kids, every big problem for the families? >> the first part of the question? >> romance in high school. did the kids have to hide it from their family? and between tibetan and chinese children and hindus and indians and pakistanis? >> i don't know if there were any indian kids at the school. a lot of kids from bangladesh, and definitely a lot of kids from pakistan. there was hostility between the tibetans and chinese. not across the board but in the book i wrote about an incident that happened where a tibetan -- it was nwang. who was not the president but he organized a lot of the students
for free tibet meetings at the high school. and he made a flier, and handed it out in the cafeteria. come to students for a free tibet. we'll teach you how to read and write in tibetan. one african kid showed up. that was great. but the chinese -- a group of chinese boys got a ahold of the flier and wrote, don't go to tibetan club, come to chinese clubs first because tibet is inside of china, or something like that. so i mean there were definitely those tensions. and as for romances, nwang had the hugest crush on a chinese girl and had a lot of chinese friends. i think certain high school things just trump political things. so, really, she was very cute. and then there were a lot of
interracial, intercultural couples. if you looked at the prom mick tours, all you see is contrasts, and this girl from china dadeed -- definitely a few girls from china dating boys from the dominican republic, and there were tons of couples -- i don't know if they had to hide it. if they had to hide it they probably weren't dating at all. some of the muslim girls whose parents were strict, it's not they would hide their relationships. that they wouldn't have relationships in high school. 'with boys from high school. but then there were a bunch of boys from yemen who would send very, very romantic val tine's day cards to girls and would really seduce them. >> i just had a question about
all of the colleges and universities you have named, just been great, having worked with a couple of schools. do you think there was something about all of these cultures coming together that made this school have more success with respect to how they perceived education? i mean, also what it says about the validation about our country and bringing cultures together. i mean, working with a couple of schools, all the schools and these kids going on seems like it's a successful model over there. >> i think so. and i think people -- you know, the international public school is a bran, and i think a lot of colleges have more than 12 schools now, almost, in new york and a couple in california, and people now recognize the brand. they know something about the international high school, and i think that enough international high school students have been placed that -- at a lot of those colleges, there's a precedence. they have a pretty good reputation and the kids