Frank McCourt arrived in New York an idealistic, impoverished Irish boy. He didn't know what he wanted except to stop being hungry and to better himself. Noticing how book-carrying students on the subway read and underlined and wrote things in the margins, he was fascinated. He joined the New York Public Library and every night, after work, he would read the great novels. He talked his way into NYU, gained a literature degree, then began a teaching career that was to last 30 years. McCourt estimates he taught 12,000 children in various public schools in New York, and it is on the teacher–student relationship that he reflects in 'Teacher Man'.
McCourt believes it was his attempts to control and cajole the thousands of children in the restless New York high schools into learning and achieving something for themselves that turned him into a writer. At least once a day someone would put up their hand and shout, 'Mr McCourt, Mr McCourt, tell us about Ireland, tell us about how poor you were.' Thus he learnt the power of narrative storytelling, and out of this invaluable experience came 'Angela's Ashes'. Now, in 'Teacher Man', he shares his reminiscences of those 30 years, and reveals how they led to his success with 'Angela's Ashes' and 'Tis'.