Monday, November 17, 2014

Crazy is Normal by Lloyd Lofthouse Interview, Excerpt & Review

Publisher: Three Clover Press (June 14, 2014)
ISBN: 978-0986032851
Category: Biographies and Memoirs, Educators
Tour Date: October, 2014
Available in: Print & ebook, 386 Pages
Multi award winning author, Lloyd Lofthouse kept a daily journal for one-full school year and that journal became the primary source of this teacher’s memoir.
“Readers who envision eager students lapping up learning led by a Tiger Teacher will be disappointed. Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.
Throughout this memoir, though, Lofthouse seems able to keep the hope alive that there’s a future for each student that doesn’t include jail—thanks in large part to his sixth period journalism class and its incredible editor, Amanda.” – Bruce Reeves
Praise for ‘Crazy is Normal':
“Lloyd has written an honest and fascinating story of a year in the working life of a dedicated California public school teacher. This is a must read for those thinking of becoming a teacher, is a public school teacher or administrator, or has children in the public school system.
What works most effectively is how Lloyd shows the contrast between the two student extremes – the top achievers who take what Lloyd offers and learns how to conquer the world, and the many slackers who appear determine to sabotage their teacher’s best efforts to teach them the skills they need for a successful future.”-Tim M, Amazon Reviewer
“Lots of teachers I know wish they had kept a daily journal as detailed as Lofthouse’s; you forget so much. He’s done old teachers a favor, and will have them nodding their heads — “yes, that’s the way it was.” Parents and teachers who live in lusher locations may turn their nose up at his toughness and military approach to classroom rules, but in the long run it’s the students who profited. Someday maybe someone will keep a similar journal and write a parallel account of life in a “nice” school classroom. A great read that gradually moves the reader from a sense of “crazy” to a sense of “maybe there’s hope.”-Unhirsute, Amazon Reviewer
“Lloyd Lofthouse has written a powerful memoir in Crazy Normal that took me back to time we shared at Nogales High School. His reflections and anecdotes based on his daily journal brought so many memories of my own teaching experiences there. This is not fiction, but retelling of events that might give insight for many into the challenges a teacher faces every day.
Lofthouse’s journal shows a later picture of the community. The kids who populate the pages of his memoir don’t have dirt floors, but many of them are still new to the country and the language. Some are headed to colleges and universities while others, if they graduate from high school, might be the first of their families to achieve that diploma.
I had to take breaks from reading when Lloyd described the grueling and frustrating teachers’ meetings. These were not times I wanted to revisit now that I have retired after thirty-seven years of teaching. But like Lloyd, my good memories are of the students who walked through my doors every day. I revel in their accomplishments and their ability to overcome huge societal obstacles in order to succeed. Nogales is a place like many other American high schools where crazy is normal.
I applaud Lloyd Lofthouse for his dedication and hard work on behalf of kids who needed someone who cared enough to help his students learn and grow. His story is worth telling—and worth the read.”- GailtheReader, Amazon Reviewer

Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley.
Tell us your latest news?
The latest news is that “Crazy is Normal, a classroom expose” is on sale for .99 cents during this October book blog tour. After the tour, the price will go back up to $3.99
When and why did you begin writing?
I wrote my first science fiction novel in 1968, after fighting in Vietnam as a U.S. Marine. After an honorable discharge, I went to college on the G. I. Bill where I took a creative writing class as an elective.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think I first considered myself a writer when my first science fiction novel attracted an agent to represent it, and then the interest of a publisher who sat on the novel for a year, because the editorial board was split between my book and another author’s first work. Eventually, the publisher went with the other author because he was a PhD, and I was in my second year of college. After that, I was hooked on writing.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Ray Bradbury.  While in my first year of college in 1968, there was an author event on campus that featured Ray Bradbury. His talk inspired me and that’s when I decided to sign up for the creative writing class where I wrote my first novel. In fact, I should dust off that old science fiction manuscript to revise and edit, so I can publish “Grape Stakes”.
How did you come up with the title?
For my memoir, “Crazy is Normal”, it took some time. The first few years, the working title was “Teaching in the Trenches”, but that didn’t feel right. I was thinking of World War I in Europe and how teaching felt like trench warfare at times. Then one morning, I woke up with the “Crazy is Normal” title, because in the schools where I taught, crazy was normal.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes, the message is that it takes more than just powerful teaching for kids to learn. The children must be part of the process with support from their parents. When children aren’t motivated to read and/or learn and there is no support from the parents/guardians, the teacher’s job becomes almost impossible for those children who are not engaged.
In “Crazy is Normal”, it’s obvious who the most motivated students are. They were the young adults I worked with in my last class of the day, journalism. The students who challenged me in English were some of the ninth graders in my first-four classes.
In addition, I want readers to discover that the Common Core standardized tests aren’t going to teach kids anything. Teachers teach, children learn and parents support the teaching and learning process. Without that partnership, all the tests in the world aren’t going to achieve anything.
How much of the book is realistic?
“Crazy is Normal” is 100 percent realistic. For one full school year, I kept a very detailed daily journal, and I used that journal as my primary source while writing the memoir.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Every scene in “Crazy is Normal” took place, and all of the people in the memoir are real children and adults. I didn’t make anyone or anything up, but I did change their names.
What books have most influenced your life most?
This mix may sound odd.  For instance, the “Bible”, “The Lord of the Rings” by Tolkien, “Interview with a Vampire” by Anne Rice, and books by James Lee Burke. This list is but a sample. There were other books that influenced my life but these were the first ones I thought of after reading the question.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
At this time, I’d have to say James lee Burke. Before I started reading Burke’s work, I’d have to say Hemingway and Fitzgerald. I studied their work while I was earning my MFA in 20th century American literature and writing.
What book are you reading now?
I’m reading “Century Village” by Zachary Katz, and after I finish it, I’ll start James Lee Burke’s “Wayfaring Stranger”.
What are your current projects?
That will be a modern-day, romantic, murder mystery called “The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova”. The rough draft is done, and it’s waiting for revisions and editing.
What would you like my readers to know?
I want my readers to know what it’s like to teach in the public schools. If my readers are teachers, I want them to discover that they aren’t alone and the challenges they face are faced by most teachers. If the readers are parents or children, I want them to know that teachers can’t teach in a vacuum where children aren’t making an effort to learn and parents are not offering support.
For instance, if a child wants to be ready for college after high school, that child better start reading books at home at an early age with encouragement from their parents. Literacy is the most important skill a child can learn, but that means the child has to read a lot of books and read them every day outside of school hours for years starting as early as age three or four.
No matter what anyone thinks—teachers are human. They are not magicians or sorcerers who can magically turn kids into college-ready students at age 17/18 without those children making an effort to reach that goal. Children must pay attention, do the work, study and above all, read on their own—a lot! If a child graduates from high school hating to read and do school work, the odds say that child will not survive in college.

About Lloyd Lofthouse:Lloyd Lofthouse
Little did Lloyd Lofthouse know in 1999, when he married Anchee Min, that he was beginning a journey of discovery. His first trip to The Middle Kingdom was on the honeymoon with his bride, who introduced him to China and Robert Hart (1835-1911), the main characters in Lloyd’s first two novels,My Splendid Concubine and Our Hart. The next decade was a journey of discovery. Lloyd now lives near San Francisco with his wife–with a second home in Shanghai, China.
Lloyd earned a BA in journalism in 1973 after fighting in Vietnam as a U.S. Marine. While working days as an English teacher, he enjoyed a second job as a maitre d’ in a multimillion-dollar nightclub. His short story, A Night at the ‘Well of Purity’ was named as a finalist for the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards.
Lloyd has won 15 awards for My Splendid Concubine and 5 awards for Running With the Enemy.
‘Crazy Is Normal’ will be on sale for only $0.99 from October 1-November 15, 2014 on Kindle!
Buy ‘Crazy is Normal':

Except for Clara in my fourth period, my English classes were subdued for a Wednesday. Clara—of course—complained nonstop for the third day in a row about the failing grade she’d earned for the first quarter, and that set the tone for the rest of the period.
“I should have a B,” she said. “I’ve done all my work. You’re mean, Mr. Lofthouse.”
Wilber, Julian, Ernesto, Guadalupe and a few others joined her. Fourth period had become my class from hell. Very little learning was taking place, and the class was already a week behind my other English classes.
Fed up, I said, “If the complaining doesn’t stop, I’ll start sending people to BIC and calling parents.”
“Send me to BIC,” Ernesto said. “I don’t care. I don’t like it in here. It’s boring.”
I wrote the referral and sent him on his way.
Once the class settled down, I asked Desiree to start reading the short story we were supposed to be studying. Desiree was the only white student in the class. She was also earning the only A in the class. If she made a mistake in pronouncing a word, the class would erupt in cheers and clap.
Then Julian interrupted her and accused her of mispronouncing a word. “You made a mistake,” he said. “You’re stupid.”
“That wasn’t a mistake,” I said. “Continue reading, Desiree.”
“You’re a racist, Mr. Lofthouse,” Julian said. “You only said that because she’s white like you.”
I wrote another referral and sent Julian to BIC. As he left, most of the class jeered and hooted. Sophie was the loudest, so she was next to earn a trip to BIC.
Just when it looked like the class was finally going to settle down, Jorge—who had the lowest grade in the class—turned around and said to the boy sitting behind him, “You fucking bastard!”
Jorge went to BIC.
I heard one of the girls say “fuck” but I wasn’t sure who. I thought it was Guadalupe.
“Did you use the F word?” I asked her.  “If you did, you’re going to BIC, too.”
Almost everyone in the room turned and pointed at Clara, who sat behind Guadalupe.
“Clara said it, Mr. Lofthouse,” one of the boys said.
As Clara went out the door on her way to BIC, she dropped a note on my desk. It said, “Has Mr. Baker talked to you yet about those assignments you have to give me credit for?”
What was going on? I thought.
After Desiree, I asked Jasper to read. He made some of the same pronunciation mistakes that Desiree had made, but no one made a sound. For several minutes, it looked promising, and then I saw one boy flick his jacket at another boy, who grabbed the jacket and yanked it out of the first boy’s hand. Before I could say a word, the first boy leaped on the second boy, grabbed him by the ears, and started to slam his face into the surface of his desk.
“Stop that right now,” I shouted as I hurried across the room. The first boy stopped pounding on the other boy and calmly sat down. “I didn’t do anything wrong, Mr. Lofthouse. He took my jacket away. We were just playing.”
“I saw it all,” I said, “and that wasn’t playing.”
He smiled and shrugged. Most of the class was now shouting and laughing, and this made the boy smile all the more. I called the campus police officers and asked them to come to my class and escort the boy to BIC.
When the three CPOs arrived, the class was still in turmoil. One of the officers looked around the room, glared, and said, “Be quiet!” The noise subsided for the most part, but two of the boys and one girl still wouldn’t stop. The CPOs took them to BIC, too.
The class ended, and Desiree was the last to leave. She stopped by my desk. “Mr. Lofthouse, is there any way I can get transferred to one of your other classes? They pick on me all the time because I’m white and I’m earning the only A in class. They say you’re giving me the A because I’m white.”
“Desiree, you know that you did the work, and you did it right. If it bothers you that much, I’ll talk to your counselor about transferring you into one of my other English classes. You’re a good student, and I don’t want to lose you.”
She smiled. I had to hold on to the few good students I had, or I’d lose what sanity I had left. At least periods one through three hadn’t given me any problems that day, but the bad behavior in fourth period had made up for it.

During lunch, Mr. Murphy beat me at chess again, while around us, the Scrollies worked on rough or final drafts.

Then in sixth, I talked to Amanda: “Please look over this note I’m writing to that district administrator about the insert issue.”
After she read the note, she said, “I suggest you tone down some of the harsher language.”
“You’re right. If you have time, would you do that? I’m too angry to think straight.”
She nodded and took the note with her to an available computer. While she revised the note to edit out my anger, I sat down to write a report on my fourth period. There were far too many problem students in that class, and I had to break up that mob—possibly by moving students around among my other classes.
Amanda finished the revision and asked Ethan to read it to see what he thought. “I think you should soften some of this,” he said. “It’s a bit harsh.”
“I have been softening it,” she replied.
I turned around. “Ethan, you should have seen what I originally wrote.”
“Here’s the original,” she said and handed it to him.
“Feel free to soften it more,” I said. “I was pretty angry last night when I wrote it the first time, and what I asked you to revise was my third draft. You should’ve seen the first one.”
An hour later, Megan was the last reporter working. “Mr. Lofthouse,” she said, “I’ve heard you are really hard on your ninth graders. Is that true?”
I nodded.
“You should lighten up and be nice to them.”
“I’m not going to do that, Megan. My job as a teacher is to challenge my students, even if they say they don’t want to learn. All I ask them to do is do the work correctly and turn in at least sixty percent of it to pass the class. Any student who does that much work and abides by the school’s rules will have no problems with me.”

A half hour later, on my way off campus, I saw that my department chair was working late with the yearbook staff. I decided to ask her to look at the note that Amanda had revised for me.
She read it, and said, “It’s too harsh. If this administrator gets it like that, he won’t cooperate or even listen to what you have to say. But there are some good points here. If you take out this one paragraph, it’ll be okay.”
“Amanda and Ethan said the same thing,” I said. “I’ll take it home and work on it some more.”

My Review:
This is a story about a man who decides to become a public school teacher. He writes and tells us some of the issues that a teacher faces everyday. The author feels that literacy is important to everyone and parents must be involved in their child's education. This is a great book for new as well as older teachers to read. It also should be red by parents to help their children. I give this book a 4/5. I was given this book for the purpose of a review and all opinions are my own.


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