Former high school teacher and author Erik Fassnacht wants to help you enjoy the last of your summer vacation by offering a free copy of his debut novel, A GOOD FAMILY.* First, a letter from the author:

Dear Educators:

Another year of school is starting—I know the feeling. Anxiety starts ticking like a kitchen timer in your chest, and you stand helpless in your home as summer around you dwindles, waiting for that resounding “ding.” Nonetheless, it is an exciting time. Fresh faces, eager teachers, and new prerogatives all await your arrival.

There are also questions. Are you teaching in the same classroom as last year, whose every cubbyhole and bulletin board edge you memorized? Or have you been moved from 10th grade British Literature in Room 101 by the Drama Department to 11th grade American Literature in Room 202 by the Science Lab, where it always smells like frogs and formaldehyde? Or maybe you’re getting an advisory period and a co-teacher, or are teaching trigonometry instead of algebra, or need to master that new technology by the beginning of your very first class. But here’s the real question: do you remember what it was like in the beginning?

My debut novel, A GOOD FAMILY, concerns the first-year teaching experience of the bumbling-but-lovable Barkley Brunson, who is about to discover the highs and the lows of education at the palatial (and fictional) Eastwick High School in Chicago. For that young teacher in each of us, I’m sure we remember how the worries of the rookie are much more visceral than the tempered concerns of the veteran. Facing a battalion of new students might be enough to keep you up at night—what will these kids, only a few years younger than you, think of you? Will they judge, or behave, or laugh, or commiserate, or learn? Will you be respected by the established teachers, will you absorb the pedagogy of your particular department, will you understand your subject matter thoroughly or be assigned something so left field that each evening following your classes finds you anchored away in that not-so-easy chair, reading ahead and frantically highlighting the text?

As a former high school English teacher, I write from experience. And in A GOOD FAMILY, I examine both the challenges of that first year and the intense emotional investment that comes with experiencing teaching for the first time. Barkley falls in love with the cobbled towers and ancient classrooms that surround him, with the colorful cast of students who loom large because they are his first, with the classic novels whose every nuance and buried metaphor he is determined to mine. A GOOD FAMILY also concerns the ways in which we grow as teachers—the necessary skepticisms, the internal governors that help us find an even keel, and the ways that experience must precede wisdom, whether we like it or not.

As you return to the classroom this August, I would be delighted if you chose A GOOD FAMILY for your next read—to remember again what it was like in the beginning, and to see the highs and lows for which Barkley Brunson, my hero, is destined.

Best wishes in the new school year ahead,
Erik Fassnacht

To receive your copy, email library@macmillanusa.com (subject: A Good Family) from your professional/library-issued e-mail address with your request, and remember to include your mailing address.

*This giveaway is open to librarians currently employed in the United States. Entrants must be age 18 or older. No purchase necessary. Giveaway ends on 8/23/15.

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