Where a Man Stands

Two Different Worlds, An Impossible Situation, and the Unexpected Friendship that Changed Everything

Where a Man Stands

When Beverly Hills High School welcomed a skinny boy from the other side of the tracks, no one knew just how life-changing the decision would be, not just for Carter Paysinger but for all of Beverly Hills.

Carter grew up hearing his parents say, “Don’t just strive to be good. Always strive to be great.” He dreamed of finding greatness in playing professional baseball or becoming a black Donald Trump, but fate had different plans and, ultimately, he found his calling as a teacher and coach at the school that once embraced him, becoming a rock for the innumerable kids who came seeking an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on. One such kid, a scrappy Jewish boy from a prominent family, would change the course of Carter’s life. His name was Steven Fenton.

Twenty years later, as Beverly Hills High fell into disarray—with principals hired and fired and families fleeing the school—as well as his own life coming apart, Carter ran into Steven Fenton again. Together, they found renewed passion and hope to fight for their school and test the limits of what community means. But when Steven convinced Carter to throw his hat into the ring as principal, the progressive Beverly Hills suddenly thought that its winningest and most beloved coach didn’t fit the profile for the Beverly Hills image. It was the beginning of a long road, but Carter could hear his father saying, “Don’t listen to those voices. Do what you have to do.”

Filled with hope, triumph, and the struggles that come to define us, Where a Man Stands is a beautiful fish-out-of-water story about the families formed in unlikely places and how, in the end, where you stand, and with whom, and for what, matters as much as anything.
  • Howard Books | 
  • 304 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476711409 | 
  • November 2014
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Where a Man Stands includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Carter Paysinger and Steven Fenton. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


The gravity of a single choice can transform a man’s life, but Carter Paysinger didn’t know just how much things would change when he first set foot into Beverly Hills High School. After “winning” a permit to attend the prestigious school, Carter discovers a new world distinct from his South Central home. Within a few short years, Beverly becomes his new family, and—time and time again—he finds reasons to return, first as a coach and later as a teacher. After a troubling increase in staff turnover and a fall in student test scores, coupled with a few setbacks in Carter’s own life, he begins to doubt the direction he’s going. But Beverly isn’t through with him yet—and with the help of an old friend, Steven Fenton, Carter isn’t finished with Beverly, either.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Carter Paysinger’s huge break was snagging a multicultural permit to attend Beverly Hills High School. Discus see more

About the Authors

Carter Paysinger
Photograph © Daniel Caldwell (White's Studios)

Carter Paysinger

Carter Paysinger has served Beverly Hills High School for over thirty years as a teacher, coach, department chairperson, athletic director, and principal. In Carter’s first year as the principal, Beverly Hills High School earned its highest API academic ranking in the history of the school. Carter is currently also the president-elect of the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section, the governing board of high school sports for the entire state of California. Carter lives in Los Angeles with Karen, his wife, and their son, Chandler.

Steven Fenton
Photograph courtesy of the author

Steven Fenton

Steven Fenton began his career in the mailroom of the William Morris Agency and worked in Hollywood as a talent manager for over twenty years. In 2007 he ran for the Beverly Hills Board of Education and won by the widest margin in the school board’s history, eventually becoming the youngest person ever to be elected president of the board of education. He currently partners with his wife, Leeza Gibbons, running their production company, Leeza Gibbons Enterprises. They live in Beverly Hills.