Joe Miller

Author of
  • Cross-X
    Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006
  • US of AA
    Chicago Review Press, 2019

Joe Miller is an award-winning journalist and author, and an associate professor of English at Columbus State University in Georgia. His first book, Cross-X: The Amazing True Story of How the Most Unlikely Team from the Most Unlikely of Places Overcame Staggering Obstacles at Home and at School to Challenge the Debate Community on Race, Power, and Education, was selected as one of the best books of the year by the Chicago Tribune, the Kansas City Star, and Publishers Weekly. It was awarded the William Rockhill Nelson Award and the Harry Chapin Media Award for nonfiction. Joe has twice been a finalist for the John Bartlow Martin Award for Public Interest Magazine Journalism and the Missouri Lifestyle Journalism Awards. He lives in Kansas City with his wife, cats and dogs.

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The Amazing True Story of How the Most Unlikely Team From the Most Unlikely of Places Overcame Staggering Obstacles at Home and at School To Challenge the Debate Community on Race, Power and Education

By almost all measures, Central is just another failing inner-city school. Ninety-nine percent of the students are minorities. Only one in three graduate. Test scores are so low that Missouri bureaucrats have declared the school “academically deficient.” But week after week, a crew of Central kids heads off to debate tournaments in suburbs across the Midwest and South, where they routinely beat teams from top-ranked schools. In a game of fast-talking, wit, and sheer brilliance, these students close the achievement gap between black and white students—an accomplishment that educators and policy makers across the country have been striving toward for years.

Here is the riveting and poignant story of four debaters and their coach as they battle formidable opponents from elite prep schools, bureaucrats who seem maddeningly determined to hold them back, friends and family who are mired in poverty and drug addiction, and—perhaps most daunting—their own self-destructive choices. In the end, Miller finds himself on a campaign to change debate itself, certain that these students from the Eastside of Kansas City may be the saviors of a game that is intrinsic to American democracy.

Praise for Cross-X

**Starred Review. For anyone who thinks of high school debate and envisions nerdy teens, the story of the Kansas City Central debate squad will be eye-opening. Despite the inner-city school’s academic deficiencies, and the students’ own turbulent home lives, the young African-American debaters have been able to carve out a sphere of success for themselves—in part by making the racial issues surrounding their participation a key part of their arguments. Miller, a local reporter, spends most of his time with two teams of debaters: underclassmen Ebony and Antoine, who are still learning the ropes, and seniors Marcus and Brandon, working their way toward a national championship in Atlanta. Miller embeds himself deep into their lives and is forthright about how his journalistic objectivity slowly eroded. The reporting is both lively and engrossing, and … the book encourages most readers to learn more about these remarkable teens.

Publisher’s Weekly

Kansas City’s Central High is a designated underachieving Missouri school with a dismal record. It has, however, a strong debate team that has qualified to compete in the Tournament of Champions on the national level. Miller spent several years in the city’s debate scene while writing this book, although his primary focus here is on one season with the top team. He follows the students as they cope with the highs and lows. To his credit, the author admits that his journalistic objectivity was compromised by spending so much time with his subjects. However, it is that commitment that makes this book an engaging read. Debate on the national circuit is political, occasionally nasty, and as much about style as it is about substance, and Miller exposes these facets, while taking readers into the lives of four teens surviving in a poor school and poor homes. The story is about race, teens, and the art and science of debate; it is also an indictment of public education.

Mary Ann Harlan, School Library Journal
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US of AA

How the Twelve Steps Hijacked the Science of Alcoholism

In the aftermath of Prohibition, America’s top scientists joined forces with AA members and put their clout behind a campaign to convince the nation that alcoholism is a disease. They had no proof, but they hoped to find it once research money came pouring in. The campaign spanned decades, and from it grew a multimillion-dollar treatment industry and a new government agency devoted to alcoholism.
But scientists’ research showed that problem drinking is not a singular disease but a complex phenomenon requiring an array of strategies. There’s less scientific evidence for the effectiveness of AA than there is for most other treatments, including self-enforced moderation, therapy and counseling, and targeted medications; AA’s own surveys show that it doesn’t work for the overwhelming majority of problem drinkers.

Five years in the making, Joe Miller’s brilliant, in-depth investigative reporting into the history, politics, and science of alcoholism shows exactly how AA became our nation’s de facto treatment policy, even as evidence accumulated for more effective remedies—and how, as a result, those who suffer the most often go untreated. US of AA is a character-driven, beautifully written exposé, full of secrecy, irony, liquor industry money, the shrillest of scare tactics, and, at its center, a grand deception. In the tradition of Crazy by Pete Earley and Catastrophic Care by David Goldhill, US of AA shines a much-needed spotlight on the addiction treatment industry. It will forever change the way we think about the entire enterprise.

Praise for US of AA

Joe Miller has the courage to tell a raw and honest story, one that he then backs up with impeccable research and storytelling. As our society is waking up to the incredible death toll of alcohol and alcoholism, <i>US of AA</i> is a vital book that delves into the history of where we are today and by doing so provides hope and foundation for the future.

Annie Grace, author of This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life

Joe Miller has faced his own demons. Now he dives into the world of Alcoholics Anonymous and asks the questions others do not dare: What if there are missteps in the Twelve Steps? What if AA—a program canonized by substance abusers, churches, and popular culture—does as much harm as good?

John Archibald, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for
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