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

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-7-02-21-pm

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

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-7-04-27-pm

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

 

Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-7-19-40-pm

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

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-7-54-48-pm

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

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-7-47-06-pm

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

 

Love the Baby by Steven Layne

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-7-12-08-pm

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

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-7-43-36-pm

“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

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-8-04-04-pm

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

 

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-7-28-38-pm

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

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-8-35-17-pm

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

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-7-34-19-pm

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

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-7-37-28-pm

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

 

 

 

Advertisements

NaPoWriMo – Day 18

The Sounds of Home

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 9.21.13 PM

Laughter
Sounds of sanders, sawdust, and creativity
10 pound bags of potatoes
spattering in the Fry-Daddy
While Dad sings and makes us laugh
Laughter

Tears, crying, sorrow, pain
Fighting, fear, fighting, fear

Hope
Healing
Takes Guts
Gut-wrenching
truth TruTh TRUTH
Gut-wrenching
Takes Guts
Healing
Hope

Fighting, tears, overcoming fear,
Dare, growing, grief, heal

Laughter
While Dad sings and makes us laugh
Spattering paint in the basement
10 gallon bucket of possibilities
Sounds of sanders, sawdust, and creativity
Laughter

NaPoWriMo

NaPoWriMo – Day 17

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was “Today, I challenge you to find, either on your shelves or online, a specialized dictionary. This could be, for example, a dictionary of nautical terms, or woodworking terms, or geology terms. Anything, really, so long as it’s not a standard dictionary! Now write a poem that incorporates at least ten words from your specialized source. Happy writing!” My poem is based on the Pedagogy of the Oppressed dictionary of critical theory terms (No, it doesn’t really exist, but I have definitely incorporated at least ten words form my specialized source).

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 9.24.05 PM

 

Notes from Pedagogy of the Oppressed:  Chapter One

To become fully human
is to risk an act of love.

The oppressed,
in freeing himself,
fights

for the oppressor,
also dehumanized.

To become fully human
is to risk an act of love.

The oppressed have

the freedom
the power
the hearts

To become fully human
is to risk an act of love.

to fight
to risk
to love

To become fully human
is to risk an act of love.

as Subjects,
no longer objects,
actually actualized
humans—
liberated,
complete.

To become fully human
is to risk an act of love.

Solidarity
among, not around
with, not for

Together

To become fully human
is to risk an act of love.

“Comradeship”
mutual trusting
trusting mutually.

To become fully human
is to risk an act of love.

Emerge

and turn
away from fear,

towards freedom.

To become fully human
is to risk an act of love.

Minha vida.
Minha luta.
Strive towards plentitude!

 

NaPoWriMo – Day 14

Based on inspiration from NaPoWriMo2016 and The Daily Post, I have written a san san using the The Daily Post daily prompt “Suitcase”.  NaPoWriMo explains that the “poem called a san san means ‘three three’ in Chinese (It’s also a term of art in the game Go). The san san has some things in common with the tritina, including repetition and rhyme. In particular, the san san repeats, three times, each of three terms or images. The lines rhyme in the pattern a-b-c-a-b-d-c-d.”

Suitcase

The frame, atop the journal, in the battered suitcase,

Both holding memories of her old flame

Suitcased in Sadness, agony becomes nocturnal.

In her journal, a moment when his hands framed her face

Now she desperately wants to forget his name.

Then page subsides to leaf, so grief sank to rue,

Eternally framed, and stored, in her journal.

Like the suitcase, her heartanguish, a portmanteau.

NaPoWriMo – Day 10

Our Hearts

We thought it would be wise,

But much to our demise, we’re wrong.

Expected to be strong enough—

Turns out that grace is tough to give.

We struggle to forgive

Knowing that we can’t live this way

And not sure what to say.

Let’s choose to change today and face—

Our hearts have been misplaced.

This poem is a Luc Bat — a Vietnamese poetic form that means “six-eight.” In fact, the poem consists of alternating lines of six and eight syllables. This poem is interesting in its rhyme scheme that renews at the end of every eight-syllable line and rhymes on the sixth syllable of both lines.

 

Misplaced

Poetry Month – Day 16

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (Acrostic)

Wallowing in the pain of

Awkward adolescence,

Learning to

Love others and to become

Free enough to

Love yourself,

Outcast, and casting out the

Wailing of an

Earlier you –

Redeemable with truth.