In Honky in the Ghetto, teacher Trudy Van Slooten takes the reader into a sub-culture of which few readers are aware, let alone will ever experience for themselves. Trudy takes us from her first day as a minority-quota-hire third grade teacher of eight-year-olds-going-on-twenty in terms of their exposure to life's rawest, toughest living enviroment, through twenty years of teaching in an environment only a few miles from the well-to-do suburb in which she had been raised, but light years away from the suburbs in terms of cultural/environmental/social privilege.
Van Slooten introduces us to a variety of pupils who, while reflecting the raw and violent practices/values of the only culture they've known, yet reflect a childlike - and oh so human - zest for life with modest aspirations for something a little better to come along to soften and bring momentary reprieve from life's daily doses of drabness, violence, and fear - even if something so inconsequential as a cafeteria baked butter cookie or something so achingly anticipated as a personal gift from the teacher at Christmas.
Never does Van Slooten cite the humorous and oft-times raw antics and quips of her pupils in order to demean them for such expression, but to expose the emotions and persepctives below-the-surface. Trudy only laughs at herself as she stumbles her way out of the self-imposed confinements and stereotypes of her "honky" perspective into the humbling realization at the end of the term in hearing one of her pupils express shock to hear her tell him that she indeed was "white." All along he had thought of her as being no different than himself, save for her lighter skin and hair!
These are the reflections of a teacher who embraces, respects, and identifies with her young pupils, who in outward circumstances alone are unlike herself and the world in which she once live but - because of what she experienced and learned from her "ghetto" students - a world to which she will never return.