Book Title: No Ivory Tower: Book Two Of The Miss Oliver's School For Girls Saga (Volume 2)
Publisher: H.H. Bonnell, Publisher
Author: Stephen Davenport
"Some are called to serve in schools. Some are called to write. Davenport is called to both." - Annie Dillard in praise of "Saving Miss Oliver's," Book One of the Miss Oliver's School For Girls Saga. "No Ivory Tower:" When a beleaguered headmaster is forced to resign from Miss Oliver’s School for Girls, the youthful Chair of Science Rachel Bickham finds herself tapped as the first African-American head of school. The board warns her to surround herself with the right people, or she won’t succeed. But she’s not worried; she will put the much more experienced, legendary teacher, Francis Plummer at her right hand, as Dean of Academics. Together, they will yank the school, beloved by the alumnae for its empowering of young women, out of the jaws of insolvency. But before she’s able to make that appointment, Mitch Michaels, the father of sophomore Amy Michaels strides in and makes an ultimatum only a rabid conservative talk show host can deliver on: kick Amy’s friend and dorm-mate, Claire Nelson, out of the school so she won’t continue to corrupt his daughter, or he’ll broadcast to the world the secret that Claire has been hiding. The scandal, he promises, will shut the nearly bankrupt school down. Michaels is proxy for every insult to women, real or imagined, since time began, and Rachel fights him with a daring strategy that puts her job on the line. Meanwhile, bank loans come due, the choices of emotionally charged teen agers and adults threaten to unravel the school, a cabal of alumnae tries to unseat Rachel, and, most alarming of all, Francis Plummer’s performance in the classroom begins to falter. And it is not as if Rachel doesn’t have a personal life: a marriage to sustain with a husband whose job is just as consuming as hers, and a hunger to become a mother. Gripping, funny in some places, sad in others, this is the story of what a feisty, young and idealistic woman learns as she struggles to do the right thing in an environment which is, indeed, no ivory tower. INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR Q. You have published two novels, Saving Miss Oliver’s, and No Ivory Tower, both set in a New England boarding school, Miss Oliver’s School for Girls, and you are presently working on the third novel in the series, The Encampment. Why did you choose this setting? A. Because I have spent a lifetime in independent schools. Think of the novels in the Miss Oliver’s School for Girls Saga as case studies made into good yarns. In fact, I have led workshops for school leaders based on events and characters in Saving Miss Oliver’s. Q. What is there about that world that makes for compelling stories? A. Everything that can possibly happen to humans, happens in schools, usually in the compressed, and therefore intensified, time period of one academic year. Boarding schools are especially intense, hermetic, mission-driven communities. For instance, the mission of Miss Oliver’s School for Girls is the empowerment of young woman. Can you imagine how much passion there is around that ideal? All schools are emotionally charged, politically fraught searches for consensus among alumnae, who hate change, students, who yearn for it, a very autonomous, verbally skilled, highly intelligent, opinionated faculty, and board members who may or may not have a private agenda, and parents who, having paid the high tuition, are entitled to great results – the definition of which requires another search for consensus. Think of a family of four hundred or more people. One could not ask for richer material. Q. Does it make any difference which novel in the Saga one reads first? A. Both novels are entirely independent, but if you intend to read both, start with Saving Miss Oliver’s. Q. Tell us about your next novel, The Encampment. A. Between No Ivory Tower and The Encampment we see the arc of a women’s career, namely Rachel Bickham, the African-American head of Miss O’s. In The Encampment, a senior befriends a homeless man with frightening consequences.