Jo Scott-Coe is the author of two nonfiction books: a memoir in essays, Teacher at Point Blank (Aunt Lute 2010), and MASS: A Sniper, a Father, and a Priest (Pelekinesis 2018), which won the silver medal for biography in the 2020 eLit awards.
Her writing on intersections of “private” and “public” violence has been published in venues including Salon, American Studies Journal, Pacific Coast Philology, Tahoma Literary Review, Talking Writing, Catapult, Superstition Review, and Fourth Genre. Her article, “The Perfect Victim: Childhood Sexual Trauma and Gendered Catholic Identity” appears in Crisis and Challenge in the Roman Catholic Church: Perspectives on Decline and Reformation (Rowman & Littlefield 2020).
A teacher of composition and literature for nearly thirty years, Scott-Coe currently works as an associate professor of English at Riverside City College, where she was named 57th Distinguished Faculty Lecturer for her research on lost histories in stories of mass shootings. Scott-Coe also facilitates community writing workshops for the Inlandia Institute, a nonprofit regional literary arts organization in Southern California.
Find her on Twitter @joscottcoe on FB @teacheratpointblank and on the web, joscottcoe.com. She is currently at work on a new book for the University of Texas Press, a life-in-letters of Kathy Leissner Whitman, who was killed by her husband in private the night before he committed the 1966 UT Austin massacre.
Teacher at Point Blank answers this question at a time when concerns about school performance, safety, and teacher attrition are at an all-time and often anxious high. Meditating on subtle and overt forms of violence in secondary public education from an up-close and “pink collar” point of view, Jo Scott-Coe examines her own workplace as a microcosm of the national compulsory K-12 system, where teachers—now nearly 80% women—find themselves idealized and disparaged, expected to embody the dedication of parents, the coldness of data managers, and the obedience of Stepford spouses. Haunted and compelled forward by memories of a classmate who commits suicide on campus, a former teacher-colleague who dies all alone, Hollywood fantasies of the “ideal teacher,” and chronic reports of school violence and increasing gender crime, Scott-Coe reveals how her hopes, past and present, struggle for breath at the point blank of denial, confinement, addiction, isolation, hostility, subliminal eroticism—and, at times, a healthy dose of fear.
PRAISE FOR TEACHER AT POINT BLANK
Jo Scott Coe's very fine memoir of her teaching life is unlike anything I have read before. Her lean prose is unyielding to sentimentality and aspires always toward honesty about our lives as adults and as children. One is, here, in the presence of a writer who convinces us that teaching young lives is a constant and, sometimes, terrible journey of adult self-discovery.
—Richard Rodriguez, author of Brown: The Last Discovery of America
This unique and daring book lifts the cheerful, can-do mask that hides the reality of what it means to be a teacher. In luminous prose, Jo Scott-Coe debunks the sentimentalized mystique, exposing the harsh reality of extreme expectations,
isolation, and psychic disconnect that engulfs teachers' lives. Scott-Coe's truth is at once disturbing and emancipating.
—Susan Ohanian, author of Why Is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools?
Jo Scott-Coe writes with humor, insight, and a deep love for her subject. In many ways, she has become a voice for her generation and for teachers, too. Remarkable.
—Chris Abani, author of GraceLand and The Virgin of Flames