Love Letter to America

Dear America,

Love can save us.  Trust me, I know.

My childhood was not a lovely one.  I was the youngest, and therefore the most helpless, child of a very broken family.  Alcoholism, domestic violence, and several types of abuse were some of the secrets we kept (or thought we kept) hidden within our household. When life was not a place of fear and terror, it was a place of shame and doubt.  Love saved me. One of the first times that I confronted love was in the book Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig.  I know it seems silly that a book about a donkey and a little red marble could show me what love looks like.  It was Sylvester’s parents who got through to me. They grieved when their adored son, Sylvester, couldn’t be found.  I realized that love could look like grieving.  My next encounter with love was the Frances books by Russell Hoban.  Frances was lovable, though she was sometimes stubborn, selfish, and childish. Frances had wise caring people in her life who helped her grow and change. I learned that love is not abrasive and that love can transform.

I watched my dad encounter love in the Alcoholics Anonymous book (the Big Book) as he read accounts of other recovering alcoholics sharing their experience, strength, and hope. Yes, I ended up reading the whole book cover-to-cover, too.  I was watching it transform my father, so I just had to read it.  I knew there was good stuff in there!

Book by book, chapter by chapter, page by page, I have been transformed as I have encountered love in books.  I have realized that I am not alone. I have realized that my shortcomings don’t have to be permanent.  I have learned that people are resilient, and I can be too.   I learned that there is hope.  Since then, I have tried to share this love with others.  I like helping my students and friends find the right book. The book that will speak to their hearts.

Needless to say, I was ecstatic when I stumbled upon Donalyn Miller’s words that put voice to what I was trying to do with books.  On page 9 of The Book Whisperer, Donalyn explains how she and her husband have use books to express themselves and their hearts to each other with “Books are our love letter (or apologies) passed between us, adding a layer of conversation beyond our spoken words.”

For over a week, I have been beyond words. I know that to heal, to move forward, I need to use my voice, but there is too much to articulate.  I also know that I need to love. Fearlessly.  So, America, I want to express my love for you.  Here is my love letter to you in the form of books.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

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Even when it seems that the world (or in Melinda’s case, the entire high school) is against you, and you are hurting alone, find your safe place, your safe person, and speak.

Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher

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Sometimes the best way to help a friend is to listen to what she is not saying.

 

Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes

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When a friend encourages you to be yourself, your toughest critic might finally accept you as you are, even if your toughest critic is your own father.

 

Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins

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Wait, do you really expect me to tell you a tiny little thing about each book on this list?  Just read this one!  Trust me!

One For the Murphys by Lynda Mullay Hunt

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Even those of us who feel we are undeserving of love, are indeed loved.

 

Love the Baby by Steven Layne

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Jealousy can cause hatred, but seeing another’s vulnerability and humanity can sometimes be what we need to help us love.

If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson

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“If you plant a seed of kindness, in almost no time at all, the fruits of kindness will grow and grow and grow.”

 

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

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Sometimes love looks like a bald, chipped-tooth, taxi-driving coach who pushes you to be better.

 

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

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Love, especially sacrificial love, trumps everything no matter how terrifying, dark, and powerful a certain force may appear to be.

 

A Perfect Season for Dreaming/Un Tiempo Perfecto Para Soñar by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

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Find someone you trust and share your dreams.

My Secret Camera: Life in the Lodz Ghetto by Frank Dabba Smith, with photographs by Mendel Grossman

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Even in the worst of times, connecting with others, laughter, and love helps us persevere.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

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Pay attention to how you treat others, and remember that even small amounts of kindness can ripple outward and change the world.

 

America, this is a teeny tiny list, and there are countless books that will remind you who you are to the world, and who the world should be to you.  These are just a few that I have on my coffee table right now, reminding me that there is hope. Start with one of these, or choose another book, but read, love, transform, and be transformed.
Fondly,

Julie Hoffman

 

 

 

Bye-Bye Binaries (for Annika)

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We are coming up to the crossroads,
But they look like borders.

What should we do when we get to the crossroads?
They can’t separate us if we’re holding hands!

I know your life ain’t been no crystal stair,
And mine has had tacks in it.

What should we do when we get to the crossroads?
They can’t separate us if we’re holding hands!

We came through,
Seeing past
My privileged poverty
and
Your oppressed opulence.

What should we do when we get to the crossroads?
They can’t separate us if we’re holding hands!

The two of us?
We are:
Clover and Anna
Marlee and Liz
T.J.  and Andy
Ella and Z
Wren and Darra
Gabby and David

What should we do when we get to the crossroads?
They can’t separate us if we’re holding hands!

They directed you into a police state,
Leaving me devastated, needing to make a statement.

What should we do when we get to the crossroads?
They can’t separate us if we’re holding hands!

We are coming up to the crossroads,
But they look like borders.

What should we do when we get to the crossroads?
They can’t separate us if we’re holding hands!

We will stand up tall
State our case
Hold our heads up high
Lift our voices
Raise our fists

What should we do when we get to the crossroads?
They can’t separate us if we’re holding hands!

Now they understand
Just why our head’s are not bowed.

What should we do when we get to the crossroads?
They can’t separate us if we’re holding hands!

 

Into a daybreak that is wondrously clear,
We rise!

What should we do when we get to the crossroads?
They can’t separate us if we’re holding hands!

We have come to realize that my destiny is tied up with your destiny.
My freedom is inextricably bound to your freedom.
We cannot walk alone.

What should we do when we get to the crossroads?
They can’t separate us if we’re holding hands!

We are friends, comrades,
Unapologetically.

What should we do when we get to the crossroads?
They can’t separate us if we’re holding hands!

We rise!

 

NaPoWriMo – Day 26 prompt

“Write a poem that incorporates a call and response. Calls-and-responses are used in many sermons and hymns (and also in sea chanties!), in which the preacher or singer asks a question or makes an exclamation, and the audience responds with a specific, pre-determined response.”

 

 

 

NaPoWriMo – Day 13

Because the number 13 is often considered unlucky, today’s NaPoWriMo challenge is to “beat the bad luck away with a poem inspired by fortune cookies.”  http://www.napowrimo.net/

Playing with the number 13, I decided to write a rondel:

  1. Poem consists of 13 lines in 3 stanzas
  2. Rhyme scheme: ABba/abAB/abbaA (uppercase letters are refrains)
  3. Usually 8 syllables per line

 

Fortun(ately)

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Perseverance will bring you joy.

The time to be hopeful is now.

Time for pleasure you must allow.

Recreation you shall employ.

 

Whether you are  a girl or boy,

Live.  You must find a way, somehow.

The time to be hopeful is now.

Perseverance will bring you joy.

 

The truth reveals the Real McCoy.

You bring the world delight, and how.

Take the applause and take a bow.

A reminder from Illinois—

Perseverance will bring you joy.

Poetry Month – Day 13

For this new trilogy, I have written a Triolet…

 

Genius appliances and friends,

Treasures found in Tesla’s Attic,

Are they magic or mathematic?

Genius appliances, and friends,

Are drawn to the new kid Nick.

One who might know how it ends-

Genius appliances and friends-

Treasures found in Tesla’s attic.

Feed

   Feed by M. T. Anderson

Ages 13 and up

Titus is a typical, teenage boy living in a future world that involves space travel and major media involvement.  Computers are no longer an external device that people carry around, but are internal devices, feeding directly into the brain.  The “feed” can be used to broadcast, chat, send messages, receive mass amounts of advertisements, and for shopping. Kind of like Facebook in your head! Titus and his friends go spend a weekend on the moon, seeking the ultimate party, and meet Violet.  While at a party, Titus, Violet, and several of their friends are hacked.  After a few days of hospitalization, and reprogramming, they are all up and running again- except for Violet.  Violet’s feed is malfunctioning.  As Titus continues to get to know Violet, he is forced to think about things form a perspective he had never considered.

My Rating:  5 Stars

Z for Zachariah

Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien

Ages 12 and up

Ann Burden is a sixteen year old girl who has gotten used to living by herself.   After the war ended, all of the people she knew died from radiation poison.  It seemed that the valley (somewhere along the east coast) she lived in somehow “has its own weather.”  Ann begins to take care of herself, cultivates the land, and is surviving.  The book, written as a journal from Ann’s point of view begins with “I am afraid.  Someone is coming.”  When John Loomis, a chemist from Cornell University arrives in his green radiation-free suit, with his supplies and a Geiger counter, Ann has to decide how she will share the land with him, or if she even wants to.

My Rating: 5 Stars