The Great Monroe High School Fire

The Great Monroe High School Fire

by Michael Cooney


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The Great Monroe High School Fire is based upon events surrounding the unsolved arson fire that did major damage to James Monroe High School in the South Bronx over thirty years ago. The characters are inspired by the young people who survived that era of gangs, drugs, and a failing educational system. The narrator, Joey Sanchez, lives astride the worlds of his Italian mother and his absent Puerto Rican father and is influenced by the very different people in his life. His impoverished mother is the one person whom he cannot bear to disappoint. His closest friend Sapo joins him in a frenzy of graffiti writing while they are still at Junior High 22, and later nearly gets both of them killed in a drug deal gone wrong.

Joey differs from his peers not only in his mixed ancestry but in his inability to accept the limitations of life in the Bronx. Beginning with a box of old books brought home by his mother, he seeks to understand a larger world through reading and through people he sees as possessing the knowledge that he lacks. There is Siobhan, the Fordham student who uses him for her own purposes, and the eccentric English teacher, Miss Bonsecour, whose friendship with the boy brings unwanted attention to them both.

The events of the story unfold as much of the South Bronx was being consumed by fires whose origin has never been fully explained, a time just before the crack and AIDS epidemics swept away so many lives. It was, in Joey Sanchez' words, a time when books were burned and the Dark Ages returned.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501054549
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 09/03/2014
Pages: 92
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.19(d)

About the Author

Michael Cooney was a teacher and administrator in the New York City public schools for forty years, sixteen of them in the South Bronx neighborhoods where The Great Monroe High School Fire is set. After retiring, he returned to the Monroe neighborhood for another five years with the National Academy for Excellent Teaching. He is currently writing a series of historical novels focused on forgotten episodes from New York state history.

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