CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) — When the college admissions scandal broke earlier this year with the code name Operation Varsity Blues, University of Virginia English Professor Bruce Holsinger’s new book, The Gifted School, was already on its way to press. Holsinger saw the similarities after friends and family pointed them out.
“Both Operation Varsity Blues and The Gifted School are about aspirations, about kids putting pressure on themselves, about parents doing anything they can, going to any length, to secure an advantage for their kids in education,” said Holsinger, whose book arrived in bookstores on Tuesday.
The Gifted School centers on four couples competing to get their kids into a new charter school. It’s set in the fictional locality of Crystal, Colorado, loosely based on Boulder, where Holsinger and his family once lived. Holsinger says the location also has some things in common with Charlottesville.
“It’s the kind of town with a lot of pressure on kids to succeed, a lot of silent competition between parents, very often unspoken,” he said.
The comparison to the admissions scandal has attracted the kind of publicity of which authors dream: A glowing review in the New York Times, coverage in the Wall Street Journal, and a place on Oprah magazine’s summer reading list.
“I’m just ecstatic about it,” said Holsinger, who has written two previous novels, both set in the Middle Ages. “It was amazing to wake up this morning and see that review in the New York Times.”
New Dominon Bookshop had copies of The Gifted School ready for sale when it opened on Tuesday morning. The store’s marketing director Sarah Crossland said she expects sales to be strong.
“It’s a hot button issue, and Bruce is a great writer,” she said. “So when those two come together, it’s kind of a perfect storm.”
Holsinger says the satirical book is meant to entertain, but it isn’t just a light summer read. It has a message.
“One of the hopes I have about The Gifted School is that it will hold up a mirror to us, so that we might become a little bit more skeptical, a little bit more self-critical about the way that we parent and the way that we procure advantage for our kids,” he said.
Holsinger will read from his book and sign copies at New Dominion Bookshop at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. Tennessee author Cary Holladay will also read from her book “Brides in the Sky.” For more information on that event, click on the link in the Related Links box.
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