Monday, January 18, 2010

Thank you, Dr. Martin Luther King!

Today I owe a larger-than-usual debt of gratitude to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Why, you may ask? The first part--the usual debt of gratitude--is owed because the sacrifices he made and the cause he led have allowed me to live a full, rich life with friends and family from every corner of the world; a beautiful daughter (flesh of my flesh!) whose coffee-colored skin is a beautiful contrast to my own shade of milky-white (read: pasty), and an extended family of loved ones who represent every color of our human rainbow. From the deepest recesses of my heart and my soul, I am grateful: for my daughter, my friends, my loved ones; for a president in the White House who reflects my own beautiful family in a way I never dreamed possible; for a world that is one step closer to the dream...Thank you, Dr. King.

The larger-than-usual, though, is purely selfish. This morning, thanks to the holiday, I laid in bed until I had finished a book: Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. (More on that in a moment.) Then I came downstairs, plugged in my computer, and watched the webcast of this morning's ALA Midwinter Awards. I cried as Walter Dean Myers was awarded the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award. (Should I feel ashamed to admit that? Perhaps...but it's true.) I chose my next book to read--luckily it's been waiting patiently in the other room: Going Bovine by Libba Bray, winner of the 2010 Printz Award. I cheered as one of my favorite books of 2009--When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead--won the Newbery. It is now just noon, and already it is a wonderful day! Thank you, Dr. King. ;-)

By my count, Her Fearful Symmetry was the fifth book of 2010. I think. It is probably too early in the year for me to have lost track already, but there it is: I have. At any rate, I loved this book! I was intimidated by the mediocre reviews; I had so loved The Time-Traveler's Wife, and I was sorely afraid of being disappointed. Finally, I took a deep breath, I lowered my expectations, and I began to read.

It was wonderful. It was not The Time-Traveler's Wife, to be sure! There was no happy ending, either; just farewell...and isn't that how life really works? Oh, it was a fantasy: there was a ghost (or two, or three), there were two sets of twins, there were secrets and lies and all sorts of mysterious things, but at it's core, it was both intimate and true. And isn't that why we read? So we can be drawn into another life; so we can know strangers intimately and see the world through their eyes; and then we can go back to our own lives and think, "Hmmm. Maybe this real life I'm living is OK. Maybe I am not alone. Maybe there is more to me, too, than meets the eye. Or maybe not."

Perhaps this book will not take a place in my heart, and perhaps it will. As I said, it was not The Time-Traveler's Wife. But it did occupy my heart for a few hours, and if I learned nothing else from reading it, I learned that the shadow of a thing is sometimes as important as the thing itself.

Now, on to Going Bovine. But first a quote from the man of the day, coupled with the hope that I will help my students fulfill this goal in the year to come:

"The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically... Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

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