Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Indelible Marks.

Hello everyone!

I hope the internets are behaving themselves in my prolonged absence. I'd like to point out before I launch into today's topic, that I had to move hell and high water just to land here - in this beautiful old lodge on a lake just outside the BWCA (that's Boundary Waters Canoe Area for those of you who aren't avid canoe/trekkers/Minnesotans) with the slowest wifi connection ON EARTH, with a borrowed laptop. Not only that, I haven't showered in DAYS, and I have a massive spider bite on my left hand - which is black and blue and swollen now. And why am I doing this, oh blogosphere? Because I love you THIS MUCH. Fer serious.

Anyway, the night before we set out, we stayed in a little cabin with no running water or electricity, but what it did have was books - rows and rows of paperbacks that stretched from one end of the wall to the other. Stephen King, Octavia Butler, Madeline L'Engle, Ray Bradbury, James Joyce, Judy Blume, Stienbeck, C.S. Lewis and more versions of the Tolkein tomes than you can shake a stick at.

In short, about three quarters of the books that touched me, moved me, knocked me silly were sitting there on that shelf. Multiple copies half the time. Which got me thinking. Obviously, those of us who write this blog spend a lot of time thinking and working on books written for teens, and those who read this blog spend probably even more time thinking and working on books written for teens, but I realized with a start that I haven't done a lot of writing about the books that moved me. The fifteen year old me. The seventeen year old me. The twelve year old me.

For example, when I was thirteen years old, I read Ray Bradbury's short story "All Summer in a Day", which, if you people haven't read it, I order you to navigate away from this blog AT ONCE and read it. I'll wait.

Anyway, sure the story is about the residents of a human colony on Venus, but really that story was about bullying. And there I was, a bullied kid, a lonely kid, a forgotten kid, and over the course of those nine pages, I was the girl locked in the closet. I was Margot, alone, dested, and an easy mark. I have dreams about that story even now. It was the moment, upon reading that, that I knew I wanted to be a writer. And what's more, that I needed to.

Another book for me was Stienbeck's The Grapes of Wrath", the book that awakened my political self, the one that made me a communist sympathizer, then an activist, then a political thinker. It made me question, rage and act. I still think back to the fifteen year old kid that I was, reading that scene in the barn when Rose of Sharon, after birthing her stillborn child, rescues a man on the brink of starvation with her grief, with her love, and with her own - now useless - mother's milk. What a book! What a moment! What it did to me as a teenager.

I think of James Joyce who made me understand the power of a single moment.

I think of Judy Blume who made me believe that childhood mattered.

I think of C.S. Lewis who made me believe that stories were sacred.

In any case, my black and blue hand is now officially cramping up, so I turn it to you, dear blogosphere. What were the books that changed you? What are your indelible marks?

And what is it like to return to those books, again, and again, and again?


Emily said...

I remember reading NUMBER THE STARS by Lois Lowry and later ZLATA'S DIARY by Zlata Filipovic and having both of those books open up my world. They're such different books, one fiction, one non, one historical, one contemporary (when I read it), but the themes were so real and so vivid that I felt I could understand what girls in wartime felt like. It was terrifying and amazing.

Georgia McBride said...

Holy cow. They have the interwebs in the woods?

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