The Delta, Full of Stars

Feb 17, 2018

On this episode of Arts & Letters, we talk with memoirist Michelle Kuo.

Reading With Patrick, published by Random House, is about a teacher, a student, and a life-changing friendship.

This episode “The Delta, Full of Stars” chronicles Kuo’s story of moving to Helena, Arkansas for Teach for America to work at an alternative school, Stars Academy School.

Kuo forms a bond with a student named Patrick, and she helps him discover the joys of reading and writing. Like many young teachers, Kuo leaves the profession. She decides to pursue a Harvard Law degree.

Author, Michelle Kuo
Credit Nirvana Tanoukhi

While in her third year of law school, she learns that Patrick is in jail for murder. Kuo decides to return to the Delta to help her former student.

“ Mild-mannered, [Patrick] never bullied anybody. He never cussed anybody out. He appeared to abide by a self-imposed code: Keep to yourself, don't mess around, don't get involved with other people's trouble.  .  .  .”

Born in Kalamazoo, Michigan to Taiwanese immigrants, Kuo attended public schools from kindergarten to her high school graduation. She obtained a degree in Social Studies and Gender Studies from Harvard University. 

Musician Hayes Carll
Credit Rodolfo Gonzalez/American-Statesman

She has worked as an immigrants’ right lawyer; clerked for the Honorable John T. Noonan at the Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit; and taught courses at San Quentin through the Prison University Project, the only college-degree granting program at any California state prison.

Currently Kuo teaches in the History, Law, and Society program at the American University of Paris.

Thank you to musicians Detroit Johnny, Off-The-Cuff,

Scott and Rosanna

Adam Faucett, George Morris and the Gypsy Chorus, Hayes Carll, Radiobirds, Mookie Cartwright and Scott and Rosanna.  

Listen to the song The Magic Kid" by Hayes Carll

George Morris and Helena Kirby of George Morris and the Gypsy Chorus

Listen to the song "Darker Shade of Grey" by Scott and Rosanna

Listen to the song "Full of Stars" by George Morris and the Gypsy Chorus

Generous funding for this episode was provided by the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

This episode is dedicated to Mary D. Minnick: Thanks Mom!

Executive Producer & Host: J. Bradley Minnick


Producer: Mary Ellen Kubit

Recorded by: William Wagner

Interns: Krista Hancock, Marty Burton, and Kaitlin Strain