Michelle Kuo

Random House

In 2004, a Harvard graduate, Michelle Kuo, arrived in the Mississippi Delta town of Helena-West Helena as a volunteer teacher. While spending two years teaching at an alternative school for students with disciplinary issues, Kuo struck up a friendship with Patrick Browning, a quiet student who did well in her class. A few years later, Kuo returned to Helena to read with Patrick again: this time in the visitation room of the county jail, where Patrick was being held on a charge of murder.