Thank you, thank you, thank you
As celebratory posts flooded my social media feeds on International Women’s Day (March 8, 2018), I couldn’t help but gratefully reflect on the impact a specific group of very special women has had on my life: authors.
I have always been a bookworm. Once, I got in trouble and had a note sent home to my parents because I was reading during class at inappropriate times. Real rebel material! I tend to remember my childhood in phases: the Boxcar Children phase, the Little House on the Prairie Phase, the Harry Potter ph— no, who am I kidding? That wasn’t a phase, I got a tattoo of Hogwarts just last year!
When I look back on the periods of my life, there isn’t a time when a woman author wasn’t present. Stories carried me away on adventures, taught me many things, and formed the foundation for the knowledge junkie I am today.
In honor of the authors who so impacted my younger self, I’ve put together a series of thank you notes. It was not easy to narrow it down to these four women, but when I consider the long arc of my love for stories, these are the authors who stand out.
My family took a road trip to South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore and somewhere along the way I convinced my dad to take an hours-long detour for the chance to see the home you lived in as an adult. This was in the days before smartphones, so we had no way of knowing until we got there that it was closed that day. Still, I remember seeing the outside, and feeling awed that I got to visit land where you once lived. The stories of your life on the prairie in a time long before I was born wowed me even more than the fantasy stories I loved a child—because your stories were real, and your life paved the way for my own. Your relatable stories of childhood cultivated a love of history in me and expanded my perspective on ways of life, both gifts I carry to this day. Thank you sharing your world with me.
Animorphs is the series that brought forth my unique brand of bookworm pathology: staying up late to read under the covers with a book light, and sneaking books under my desk during class (I got in trouble for reading at school, can you believe it?!). In a word, I was obsessed. These stories and the friendships portrayed within them were my first real foray into the world of science fiction and fantasy and I’ve remained hooked ever since. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with an itch in my inner ear and a small part of me still fears it might be yeerk! I think that may be the greatest testament to the impact these books had on me.
Harry came to me in a fitting way—through the mail, a gift from my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Dolores West. I had just moved to a new state and a new school, not for the first time and not for the last. I was, in so many ways, utterly different—the new kid—just like Harry—the boy who lived. Not to mention the fact that I was also a precocious bushy-haired know-it-all just like Hermione. They feel real to me: Harry and Ron and Hermione (and Hedwig and Dumbledore and everyone). I read every book the day it was released, from 5th grade through my sophomore year in college; I grew up in the magical world you created. I learned so much about friendship, courage, and facing fear. There’s no other book or series or movie or anything I can point to that so completely, positively, and permanently changed my life. Thank you.
I found your work much later in life, but better late than never! I was already a fan of magical realism and fantasy, but your characters and settings bring something to my life that I’ve only realized was missing in the last few years: color. Quite literally: people of color. Thank you for these tales of Africa and for the people within them. Your imagination is gorgeous. I’m reading like I haven’t read in years. I’m also eating plantains, because there were so many delicious scenes of Sunny frying plantains that I just had to experience it for myself!