Rowan’s class is reading this book right now:
And I have shivers.
Did you ever read Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia? Published in 1977? I must have read it shortly after it came out, and then it was one of those books I kept on repeat for years afterwards. I’m sure I wrote at least a couple of book reports on it. It was a brutal read even then, tackling class structure, sexism, poverty, death, the cruelty of children and their parents. Rereading it now (because how can I not?) it’s no less brutal. I’m already tearing up and — spoiler alert — Leslie hasn’t even died yet.
(That line is seared into my brain: “Your girl friend’s dead, and Momma thought you was dead, too.” And here I go with the tears.)
Rowan loves this book, and I love him even more for loving it. He loves it despite or because of its brutality, or maybe he doesn’t even notice how rough life is for Jesse and his siblings, his schoolmates, in rural Virginia in the 1970s. Did I notice, then? I must have. I asked him if his teacher has talked about the way that things have changed since the book was written — how boys and girls are, say, generally allowed to play on the same parts of the playground, how people don’t generally snort about “some hippies.”
“No,” he said.
“Do you think life is much different for you that it was for Jess and Leslie?”
He shrugged. His favourite character in the book, he tells me, is the dog. Followed by the cow, Miss Bessie. (My voice recognition software just typed in “Ms. Bessie” and I giggled — because calling anyone “Ms.” in the context of this book would have been a dangerously political act.)
It occurs to me that a kid raised in a Jewish household by two moms would have been dead in the water back then.
And then I wonder if maybe much has really changed. In my privileged, Canadian bubble, absolutely it has. But other days, with other news stories as far away as other countries and on other continents and as close as my backyard, it’s hard to tell.
* * *
Day 26 of #NaBloPoMo, and I have to say I feel like I’m losing steam. Four more days!