While at Youngstown I fell ill, stomach flu, bad food, whatever it was, something hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. I felt inadequate and not as upbeat and energetic as I often am and certainly not everything that the organizers hoped I would be. It was mainly one bad day, but I felt my own mutability. My own limitations and waning strength. Now, a week later, life has been a whirl wind with more events.
My dad called with news that his older sister, 91 years old, was not expected to last through the week. My wife and I began to think about how we would be able to help my parents. They were great travelers until my dad turned 80, and then they slowed down. Now, it is a bit of an ordeal—medicines, being comfortable, navigating strange places. Then on Tuesday my wife got a call. Her aunt’s husband, one of her father’s closets friends for years, had just past at 89. My wife was close to them and their children and she needed to go help her own aging father. Within the next few hours, my Dad called and his sister was gone.
What does his have to do with Young Adult Literature? First, YA novels are great for adults. The real secret is that I read these novel because I like them. I am moved and engaged. Second, the by product is that I get to act like reading and writing about books is a profession. Third, they help me navigate my own emotions and reactions to real life events.
S. E. Hinton will be speaking at the ALAN Breakfast during NCTE 2017!!!
What a gift. As I live in the reality of my own life and the demands on my emotions, I have been doing a mental rereading of The Outsiders. Indeed, we are all subject to the ravages of time; Nothing Gold Can Stay. But, if anything has a chance at longevity, it is, as Shakespeare suggests in Sonnet XVIII, the written word:
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
At the very least, I hope you will join me as I revisit the four pivotal YA novels (The Outsiders; That Was Then, This Was Now; Tex; and Rumble Fish) by S. E. Hinton between now and November.
You see, I ramble. I am soaring through family memories as I write this and prepare to engage with family at the funeral. I will see cousins and others that I haven’t seen for years. Yes, I feel the loss, but I relish the opportunity for renewal. I have literally become, like Y. B. Yeats, in his riveting poem, Among School Children, “a sixty-year old smiling public man”, as I wander through schools talking with students about what they like to read and encouraging teachers to offer more compelling choices.