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Happy Mothers' Day

Posted by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry
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on Sunday, 09 May 2010 in Uncategorized

I came home from New York late yesterday to find these flowers waiting

Roses

sent from my much-loved daughter-in-law in Germany. A nice welcome after a long day.

But a good day. I flew down in the morning, and made my way to Books of Wonder on 18th Street, met Jules Feiffer there, and together he and I talked to a nice crowd of book-lovers, and then signed maybe a zillion books.

The driver who took me back to La Guardia apologized for being on his cell phone when I got into the car. He was calling his mother in Peru to wish her a Happy Mothers' Day.

(Books of Wonder, incidentally, includes a cupcake cafe; and though I didn't eat one, I did take a cell-phone photo):

Cupcakes

Jules, in talking to the audience, said (I'm mis-quoting and paraphrasing) that the book that affects you most in your life will be one that you read as a child. I had never thought about that before. But I think it's true.

And then, after I got home in the evening, and got these lovely flowers, this morning—as an unintended Mothers Day gift— I received an email that I will quote in part. This comes from a seventh grade teacher in a rural poverty-stricken part of Arizona:


....my students are a diverse group including a large number of immigrants from Mexico and Native Americans from a nearby reservation.  I was cautioned not to read The Giver because “they wouldn’t be able to relate to it” or understand the complexity of it.  Many of my students struggle with even basic reading skills and vocabulary.  Nevertheless, I decided to take on the challenge.  Together for three blissful weeks my students and I, all 130 of them, from advanced to remedial, were captivated, horrified, infatuated, disturbed, soothed, and ultimately empowered by the journey of Jonas and Gabriel.  I was touched by their wise reactions to the various revelations of truth they encountered.   Then something remarkable happened.  After completing the book, I casually suggested anyone who wanted extra credit could read Gathering Blue and write a short report.  We only have three copies in my school library and I made it clear they would have to make the effort to find their own copies.  But on Monday, I’d say twenty or thirty students showed up with copies they had found somewhere or bought themselves, of not only Gathering Blue and Messenger but also Number the Stars.  And each day after that, more students arrived to class somehow having found at least one of your books to read. This is amazing because many of my students frequently don’t have the money for a notebook or eyeglasses or even breakfast.  Yet there they were passing around copies of your books, sharing them and bragging as if they were brand new video games or candy.  Every day this week we’ve spent at least some time just reading, getting lost in the joy of language, and stories, and characters, and the pain and beauty of truth. 

Now as I sit savoring Messenger, I can’t help but draw parallels between Village and my own state of Arizona, as we have just been ravaged by the new immigration law that has left many of my students reeling, fearing that their loved ones will be deported, families torn apart, feeling as displaced, rejected, and as broken as your characters.  I read this passage to my students today, and find special meaning in it for them:  “We were all of us new ones once … You will no longer be hungry.  You will no longer live under unfair rule.  You will never be persecuted again.   We are honored to have you among us.  Welcome to your new home.”  My earnest hope and prayer is for all of my young Givers and Artists and Leaders and Healers, that they will take what we have gone through in the reading of these books and use this new perspective to heal their own Village one day.

A letter like this is a great gift to a writer. We do what we do in such isolation, for the most part. To know that you have affected young people (and that for some of them, a book by me may be the one that affects them in the way that Jules described) is both gratifying and humbling.

Often when I am asked by a kid (usually doing an interview for a school project): "What do you consider you greatest achievement?" or "What are you most proud of?"  I always reply: "My children."

Every day, really, is a happy mother's day for me.

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Guest
Jude Monday, 29 November 1999

Yesterday, I scanned this slide of my dad in an orange jumpsuit. http://www.flickr.com/photos/jlcrook/5175603462/">http://www.flickr.com/photos/jlcrook/5175603462/" rel="nofollow">http://www.flickr.com/photos/jlcrook/5175603462/">http://www.flickr.com/photos/jlcrook/5175603462/ Even apart from the orange of his suit, you can tell it was a 1970s photo because of the paneling and the tell-tale flowered kitchen linoleum. He has my dad beat with the socks, though. It takes a brave man to wear orange.

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