So I had fifteen minutes or so to kill in the morning, and I picked up a book. I only have one bookshelf in my room; the rest are scattered around the house. The one in my room houses the writing books, the mysteries, and the children's books. I have rather a lot of children's books, primarily sf/f, and primarily of a young adolescent reading level. I find them comforting to reread. So it wasn't surprising that when I was feeling stressed yesterday, I reached out for one of them.
I picked up _Dragonsinger_. That's a novel by Anne McCaffrey, one of three in the Harper Hall of Pern series. It chronicles the adventures of Menolly, a young musician girl in a country where women generally aren't musicians. A girl from a family that is even more conservative than the rest of the land. A girl who runs away because her parents won't let her play music. A girl with an amazing talent. (You can see why I identified with her as a kid. :-)
So I read a little, and felt better, and put it down. Then last night, I got home, was too tired to work on academics, and picked up another book. Now, keep in mind that I have about seventy children's books on this bookshelf. The other book I picked up was Robin McKinley's _The Blue Sword_. A story about a young woman who cannot live by the conventions of her cultures. A young woman who has a greater, harder destiny. A woman whose family doesn't understand her. I'm about halfway through re-reading it again, and it's fully as wonderful as I remembered it. It's also intensely comforting.
I didn't plan this. I didn't say to myself, "I'm not sure if I'm doing the right thing with my life; I'm not sure my family isn't right; I'll read some books that'll tell me it's all okay." And of course, the books aren't telling me it's all okay; the answers aren't that easy. But I think it's funny, and interesting, that subconsciously I knew that these were the books I needed to read to calm myself down, to get myself to a place where I could think rationally about all this again. Patterns laid down in childhood, I suppose; these were the books that held me up when I felt like I was drowning.
This is why I want to someday write at least one children's book. So I can give back a little of what authors like McCaffrey and McKinley and Alexander, and Cooper and Duane and Engdahl and LeGuin and L'Engle and Lewis and Norton and Tolkien and Yolen gave me. There are others too, that I didn't discover until I was older but who were undoubtedly brightening others' lives -- Aiken and Boston and Christopher and Eager and Ende and Jacques and Jones and Nesbit and Pierce and White. More than anything else, these writers seem to share a sense of the possibilities inherent in a child's life, of the potentials that need encouragement.
*smile* My parents sometimes wonder where I got this stubborn independent streak, this raving individuality. Well, it's undoubtedly mostly inborn, but the children's books certainly didn't hurt. A quiet subversion they practice, these authors. I almost feel guilty exposing them this way; perhaps some parent reading this will panic and keep their kids from reading at all. I rather doubt it, though. And perhaps some of you who haven't read these books will be inspired to go out and find them. They taught me so much about life and love and strength and honor and choices and responsibility and truth and beauty. Children's authors get dismissed so often, but they take on the big questions, the issues of real importance. I wish I could command a round of applause, right now.