Michelle’s writing stems from her experiences as a teacher, advocate, and lawyer. At Centro Legal de la Raza, Michelle worked as a lawyer for undocumented immigrants in Oakland, including day laborers, domestic workers, and restaurant workers. Her cases involved eviction, abusive housing conditions, wage theft, and threats of deportation. Michelle has taught English at an alternative school at the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta for students who are expelled from other schools, and volunteered as a teacher at the Prison University Project at San Quentin Prison. Currently, she teaches at the American University of Paris in the History, Law and Society program.
Reading with Patrick, Michelle’s first book, is a memoir of teaching literature in a rural Arkansas county jail. Her book asks how literacy can grant freedom, why inequality persists, and what it means to live the good life. Reading with Patrick, short-listed for the Goddard Riverside Social Justice Prize and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. It was a 2019 Washtenaw Reads winner and has also been a community reads pick at the University of Iowa, Yale Prison Education Initiative. As Pulitzer Prize-winner James Forman, Jr. and Arthur Evenchik write in The Atlantic, "Impassioned writing and hard-earned wisdom set the book apart ... In all of the literature addressing education, race, poverty, and criminal justice, there has been nothing quite like Reading with Patrick."