Ms. Hempel Chronicles: A Novel (Paperback)
It may sound insulting to call Ms. Hempel Chronicles an anti-page-turner, but I mean this as high praise. I read Bynum’s book as slowly as possible, savoring the gentle humor and rich emotion she threads into every sentence. Anchored by their titular heroine––a middle-school English teacher who, like her pupils, daily navigates the perilous in-between of youth and maturity––these stories never treat the absurdities and sorrows of life with irony. Instead, Bynum infuses even the smallest, most recognizable encounters with grace, concern, and wonder.— From Sam
Ms. Hempel Chronicles is a "deeply affecting" (Los Angeles Times) novel of a devoted young teacher finding her way
Ms. Beatrice Hempel, teacher of seventh grade, is new—new to teaching, new to the school, newly engaged, and newly bereft of her idiosyncratic father. Grappling awkwardly with her newness, she struggles to figure out what is expected of her in life and at work. Is it acceptable to introduce swear words into the English curriculum, enlist students to write their own report cards, or bring up personal experiences while teaching a sex-education class?
Sarah Shun-lien Bynum finds characters at their most vulnerable, then explores those precarious moments in sharp, graceful prose. From this most innovative of young writers comes another journey down the rabbit hole to the wonderland of middle school, memory, daydreaming, and the extraordinary business of growing up.