12/07/23

And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

This morning, I was a guest speaker for a class of 9th graders in an online school. The class was working on writing nonfiction, and the teacher asked me to come in for them, and for a group of 7th graders I’m meeting in February, share one of my nonfiction pieces, and talk about how I came to write them, and about my process. I love doing this sort of thing, and so I sat down at my desk and got onto Zoom with a sense of great anticipation.

The teacher and I met earlier and talked about what pieces I should share. We chose one of my recent blogs for the 9th graders, on the subject of my attending my 45th high school class reunion. For the 7th graders, we chose a flash memoir that is going to appear in the magazine Months To Years in the near future, on an interaction I had in Oregon with a woman whose son had recently died.

If you would like to revisit the blog on the 45th reunion, you can find it here: https://www.kathiegiorgio.org/9-28-23/

After being introduced to the class, I talked a little bit about how This Week’s Moment Of Happiness Despite The News came to be and why it continues today, well after the year-long life I planned for it to have. I read the piece in four chunks, and while I read it out loud, the students followed along and highlighted different parts that they particularly noticed and they wrote comments in the chat.

Watching these kids, seeing them highlight my words where they felt my emotion, where they felt moved, where they noted how I accomplished something with a phrase or a fragment…ohmygosh, what a gift. But even more, seeing them connect to this piece about my experiences 45 years ago…

One of the biggest challenges about writing is that writers don’t often actually see the impact of our own work. We know what we want our stories and essays and poems to do, but people read in the privacy of their own homes, and unless the reader reaches out to us, we don’t know if we succeeded.

I got to watch the connection today. I got to see the impact. I got to see the success.

And the teacher! She called me a “force”.

A force!

But there was more.

As we talked, the kids told me about the books they’re reading. As each title was mentioned and talked about with enthusiasm, I realized what they were.

Banned books. This online 9th grade class was reading banned books.

The Absolutely True Diary Of A Part-Time Indian. Sherman Alexie.

To Kill A Mockingbird. Harper Lee.

Glass Castle. Jeanette Walls.

And so many more.

I’ve written in this blog before about how my own books have been removed from the shelves of my own high school’s library, despite the fact that I am included in the “Wall of Stars” showcasing successful alumni. I abhor book-banning, and now, banning has taken on a personal meaning. But here’s the thing.

The group I presented to? They’re part of the same district where I was banned.

Guess what? I’m still here.

And guess what? Kids are still reading.

Some of my moments feel very much like whispers. Some feel like the finale of the 4th of July fireworks. This was a finale. Filled with the colors of intelligence, open-mindedness, the freedom to read, and the freedom to think.

When it was all over, I said goodbye and moved ahead into my usual schedule. But then I received an email from the teacher, thanking me. At the bottom of the email was an image, taken of one of the comments from the students after I’d left the online room.

“I’m glad Kathie came in and read some of her writing with all of us. Her writing style and feelings throughout all of her experiences in some of her writing was really thought through and just overall a great experience to hear/read some of her writing. Her writing was relatable and truthful, sometimes a little raw that is awesome to read sometimes since it’s real life and it’s sometimes like that for some people.”

There it was.  That great big bright sonic boom that indicates the end of the fireworks.

When I met with one of my clients immediately after this appearance, I told him that my faith in humanity was restored. Well, no. That’s really overstating it, especially on a day when there is still an unholy war going on, when there was yet another school shooting, when some in our country are considering re-electing a man who should be in prison, when the Covid rate is soaring again, when this, when that, when every other thing. But while my faith in humanity wasn’t restored, I did feel a sudden infusion of hope.

In a world where the rising generation is able to read, able to open their minds to all ideas, able to feel compassion and empathy for everyone, able to grow and learn the way everyone should have the freedom to do so…there is hope.

Hope always rises.

And I’m not the only teacher who is a force.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Me on Zoom.

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