Rathbone, Cristina 1965(?)-
RATHBONE, Cristina 1965(?)-
PERSONAL: Born c. 1965, in London, England; immigrated to United States, 1984; married Anton Mueller (a book editor). Education: Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, B.F.A. (documentary filmmaking).
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Grove/Atlantic Monthly Press, 841 Broadway, 4th Fl., New York, NY 10003-4793.
AWARDS, HONORS: Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist, 1998; Radcliffe Institute fellow, 2000-01; Soros justice fellowship, Open Society Institute; Editor's Choice Award, Booklist.
On the Outside Looking In: A Year at an Inner-CityHigh School, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 1998.
Contributor to periodicals, including New York Daily News, Miami Herald, American Way, and Outside.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A book about MCI Framingham, a prison for women.
SIDELIGHTS: Cristina Rathbone's own background prepared her for the experience that resulted in her first book, On the Outside Looking In: A Year at an Inner-City High School. The book is a study of New York City's West Side High School, where primarily black and Hispanic students who have been discarded by the system are collectively schooled.
Rathbone was born in London, England, of an English father and a Cuban mother. A rebellious teen, she was placed in an alternative school after being kicked out of five different London high schools. She survived her days of dealing drugs and feeling like an outsider because of her darker skin and came to the United States, where she attended New York University and became a journalist.
The West Side High School project came about when Rathbone saw a group of young boys beating a retarded man, an event she calls "the children's riot." When she realized that she and other New Yorkers were becoming afraid of these pre-adolescent boys, she wanted to learn who they were and what their lives were about. When she first arrived at West Side for the 1994-95 school year, principal Ed Reynolds told her that within the past year six of his students had been shot, one died of AIDS, and another lost his leg when he was run over by a subway car as police chased him after a robbery attempt. Reynolds held a daily discussion group that Rathbone attended. Here, students told about their home lives and of parents who were often addicted to drugs. In her book, Rathbone focuses on about a dozen students who told her of abuses they had suffered, selling drugs and substances that were made to look like drugs, and of prostitution and pregnancies. They also told her their dreams, but despite such hopes, of the 750 students at West Side only slightly more than ten percent graduated.
Felicia R. Lee noted in the New York Times that Rathbone "writes in the book about feeling nauseated as she made the daily subway trip to school, not quite knowing what she would find each day and feeling herself inexorably drawn into the lives of the students. She ended some days with a stiff drink, she recalls, and wondered how much of her own background and feeling she should share with students." Although the students' situation is grim, there are bright moments in the book. Booklist reviewer Donna Seaman felt that in addition to focusing on the "grace and resiliency" displayed by the young students, Rathbone writes of the "generosity of spirit possessed by truly heroic teachers and the school's tireless principal." Library Journal critic Terry Christner added that Rathbone "provides a history and information about New York City neighborhoods—the gangs, drugs, depression—as well as insight into a world many readers would like to believe doesn't exist."
Rathbone has also undertaken a study of Massachusetts; Framingham Correctional Institution, the longest-running prison for females in the country and the only such institution that state. She plans to tell the stories of these women and their families and what the alternatives for these women and society might be if more emphasis were placed on teaching, training, and treating the facility's inmates.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Rathbone, Christina, On the Outside Looking In: A
Year at an Inner-City High School, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 1998.
Booklist, January 15, 1998, Donna Seaman, review of On the Outside Looking In, p. 753.
Denver Post, March 5, 1998, Carol Kreck, "An Inside Look at Shunned Students. Author Spent Revealing Year at New York Inner-City School," p. E3.
Library Journal, January, 1998, Terry Christner, review of On the Outside Looking In, pp. 114-115.
New York Times, February 21, 1998, Felicia R. Lee, "Writer's Troubling Look at Face of Troubled Youth," p. B6.
Publishers Weekly, January 5, 1998, review of On theOutside Looking In, p. 54.
Wall Street Journal, March 23, 1998, Sol Stern, review of On the Outside Looking In, Leisure & Arts section, p. 1.*