By Bev Rivero
To everyone’s delight, beloved ABC comedy, Abbott Elementary, has returned for its second season! The award-winning show has earned fans across every demographic and pulls off being sweet while still being grounded in the reality faced by staff and parents navigating the public school system.
When we first met the core cast, we learned that earnest teacher, Jacob, had taken the lessons of White Fragility to heart.
And as this season’s premiere finds the teachers in development week, it’s the perfect time to imagine and recommend some other Beacon books our favorite Philly educators and staff might enjoy, professional development and otherwise. Bonus: They’re all available in paperback, making them affordable for teachers and the rest of us, too.
Jacob started off the season with a shout-out to CODA, and for a deeper dive, he could read Terry Galloway’s take on the film as well as her memoir, Mean Little deaf Queer. As comics legend Alison Bechdel says, “Yes, Terry Galloway is resilient. But she’s also caustic, depraved, utterly disinhibited, and somehow sweetly bubbly, a beguiling raconteuse who periodically leaps onto the dinner table and stabs you with her fork. Her story will fascinate, it will hurt, and you will like it.”
Brash Melissa’s reading habits might be harder to pin down, but we know she has a deep love for her Italian roots and Philadelphia’s true history. I picture her waiting for a branzino in the oven while reading Ma Speaks Up, the story of Marianne Leone’s outspoken immigrant Italian mother who becomes a school lunch lady when she is suddenly widowed with three young children.
Style and beauty are important to Principal Ava, always camera ready for her own TikTok or any news crews that might show up at the school. She would pick up a copy of All Made Up for its eye-catching cover and come to appreciate the author’s discussion around what it means to participate in creating your own self-image.
New teacher Gregory might be putting his admin dreams aside for now, but as he commits to being a full-time teacher, we love his ongoing journey to loosen up and roll with the chaos of a grade-school classroom. Ratchetdemic would be perfect for him to learn to continuously bring his whole authentic self to his role. He’d value Emdin’s message about the power in intuitional versus institutional teaching.
Barbara, our composed elder stateswoman of Abbott, has done and seen everything. I can see her being nourished by The Spirit of Our Work, but it would also be great to see her take a break with some fiction. Like Gayl Jones’s Mosquito, in which Sojourner Nadine Jane Johnson, an African American truck driver known as Mosquito, discovers a stowaway who nearly gives birth in the back of her truck, resulting in her involvement in the sanctuary movement for Mexican migrants, meeting a wide cast of characters, and a romance.
We know Mr. Johnson has a penchant for conspiracy theories and a soft spot for Boyz II Men. His interest in the former would lead him to read up on the realities of the surveillance state, data collection, and how to protect your privacy as a consumer in “I Have Nothing to Hide”: And 20 Other Myths About Surveillance and Privacy.
Last but not least, series heroine Janine is likely a voracious reader when she’s not overwhelmed by life, which makes suggesting a book for her even more challenging. But Feminista Jones’s Reclaiming Our Space seems like a good pick for this new chapter of her life.
We think the teachers and Ava would have a very lively book club discussing Ratchetdemic or “You Can’t Fire the Bad Ones”: And 18 Other Myths About Teachers, Teachers’ Unions, and Public Education. We can also see them doing the same for lots of great books from other publishers, like Monique W. Morris’s Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools by or Lisa Delpit’s Teaching When the World is On Fire.
Happy reading, Abbott Elementary!
About the Author
Bev Rivero is senior publicist at Beacon Press. Before joining Beacon in 2021, Bev was the communications and marketing manager at the National Book Foundation, where she worked on the National Book Awards, promoted the Foundation’s public and educational programs, and led all social media and marketing campaigns. Prior to NBF, she was in publicity at the New Press for 6 years, where she worked with authors committed to social justice, including Paul Butler, Michelle Alexander, and many more. She has extensive experience promoting nonfiction and tailoring outreach campaigns that resonate with activists and change-makers. Bev is a NYC-based graduate of Johns Hopkins University, ardent supporter of indie presses, and a graphic designer. You can follow her on Twitter @LOLBev, where she mostly retweets content about books, pickles, and migrant justice.