This little perzine is packed with stories from a year in the life of Ms. B, an androgynous looking teacher at a public high school in urban Chicago. Her personality is quirky and eccentric, but the writing is immediately engaging, probably because of the combination of honesty and wit that pervades the zine. I was impressed by how gracefully the author mentioned her short haircut and the students’ confusion without focusing heavily on her sexuality, which the students also seemed to look past once they recognized their teacher’s wisdom and insight.
Ms. B. introduces herself by telling of the stresses associated with the beginning of her second year at the high school. The weight Ms. B. places on selecting an outfit for the first day of school (finally deciding on a lilac sweater that “boldly scream[s] do not ask me questions about my gender!”) reminds us that age and authority don’t always free us from insecurities. She shares with the reader anecdotes from the year about many students’ personal or behavior problems and a few solutions. Especially poignant and hilarious is the letter written to the makers of Orbit gum in which Ms. B. details her attempts to help a student. Ms. B. tells of how she gave a bulimic girl a piece of gum to cover up the stench of stomach bile during their conversation, and finishes the letter by asking the company for free gum. There are many more amusing stories about reading in class, violence in the school community, and enthusiastic student projects against discrimination. It is an especially touching moment when a student warms up to Ms. B. over a shared affinity for ACDC. After a stimulating class debate about rape in a book they had read, students literally groan in disappointment when the bell rings. Ms. B. seems proud, and rightfully so, of the mutual respect that developed over the year and created a positive environment for a struggling group of kids, and the students are proud of their accomplishments in her class. By the end of the year, it is clear that the students have begun to accept Ms. B. and learn from her class, while she learns how to work with the problems that the students face and manages teach them.
Reviewed by Amelia.