Monday, January 17, 2011

I Have a Dream by Diane Kelly

As we celebrate Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and all that he stood for, my mind reverberates with his “I Have a Dream” speech. Such a way with words, that guy. One could only dream of having his level of eloquence. The pen is mightier than the sword, and the power to move people with words is indeed a gift.

I am so thankful to be raising my children in a world that is becoming increasingly open minded and less prejudicial. It took brave people like Martin Luther King, Jr. to make this happen. Another brave soul was John Howard Griffin, the author of “Black Like Me.” If you haven’t read it, do. It’s a mind-opening, mind-blowing, mind-changing book.

In an effort to experience life as a black man in the pre-civil rights era, Mr. Griffin, a white man, took medication to darken his skin and also applied dye so that he could pass as a black person. He then traveled throughout the southern United States in a quest for knowledge and understanding. His book “Black Like Me” chronicles his experiences and provides intimate details about what he learned about race relations and the devastating impact racism has on all of us.

After the book was published, Mr. Griffin was hung in effigy in Mansfield, Texas, where he lived at the time of writing the book. I live in Mansfield, Texas today. Fortunately, it’s a much different place now.

Next month, an American Library Association Literary Landmark will be placed by the Friends of the Mansfield Public Library at the city library in honor of John Howard Griffin. As a member of the Friends, I am proud that we have been able to honor such a distinguished, courageous writer.

Just as our lives are enriched when we fill them with a diverse set of people, when I write I love to develop a diverse cast of characters. The heroine of my "Death and Taxes" series is a white country girl who received her first BB gun from her daddy for her third birthday. Now an IRS special agent in Dallas, she's partnered with a conservative black soccer dad. Despite their differences, the two make a kick-ass team. She also teams up with a Latina rookie DEA agent to pursue a mullet-wearing, tax-cheating drug dealer. For a little more fun, I tossed in a chain-smoking boss who dresses like a sixties go-go dancer. Yep, stories are a lot more interesting with a varied cast. So are our lives.

What writers do you most admire? What books have made an impact on you?

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55 comments:

Jenyfer Matthews said...

One book I read long ago that I remember making a real impact on me was Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. More recently I read "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett - another very interesting book about race relations. What makes is so interesting is that it wasn't really so long ago...

rrshep said...

The writer that has made the most impact on me is Mary Higgins Clark. The story of how this gracious lady provided for her family and became a famous and well-loved writer is a great inspiration to all women.

susanann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anne Lyken-Garner said...

'The Colour Purple' will always live in my mind. The story is so real to me because it resembles my life. But not only this, it's written with such simplicity. This is the most difficult thing to achieve in writing - in my opinion.

I *also* admire the eloquence of Dr Martin Luther King. What a man he was!

susanann said...

Some writers that have had an impact on me is Patricia Cornwell and Dan Brown as they are not the type of books that I usually read.
They are more intense and have bigger plots and are not books to read before bed. I mostly like books with some humor and not so gory to read in bed.

JoanneR said...

The Color Purple was an excellent book about this. The mini-series Roots also comes to mind and The Green Mile is another that developed this theme.
joannereynolds@sbcglobal.net

bettycd said...

I always enjoyed Tony Hillerman's novels. They opened up an understanding of Native American culture focused on the Four Corners area
This was specially intriguing for us as we were stationed in Southern AZ for several years.

Margay said...

I think the book that made the strongest impact on me was The Diary of Anne Frank. I remember reading it when I was her age, over and over. I must have read it about four times in a two week period, each time hoping for a different outcome. I just couldn't believe what happened to her - a girl just my age. It really opened my eyes to the impact someone's madness can have on others.
Margay

krisgils33 said...

Like you I'm pleased that things have changed enough that my daughter is growing up much more open minded. The diversity of this country is amazing.

yvonne said...

As a child , the books that made a great impact on me were The Diary of Anne Frank, To Kill A Mockingbird and the biography of Helen Keller. They opened my eyes to the prejudices in the world , but they also opened the doors to my love of reading.

Ingeborg said...

When I read The Diary of Anne Frank it upset me very much. I will never forget it.

Susan Mo said...

I admire every writer who puts a pen to paper, so to speak. Writing is such a difficult and personal task. The most recent book that made a diffence to me was "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett. Being born in the 70s, it is hard to imagine life during segregation. As a person now living in the South, I am glad that life has changed in terms of race relations so much in such a short time. There is still more to do, but we are far from where we started

Jean P said...

I think the books that stand out for me are the Diary of Anne Frank and Alex Haley's Roots.

Virginia said...

I will have to say the book and author that made the biggest impact on me would have to be Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, because this is the book that really got me started reading. It introduced me to a totally different world. The world or reading and traveling in books.

Anne said...

I can not think of an author who has made a personal impact on me or my life other than to provide some enjoyment. Though I have read some darker non-fiction work like The Diary of Anne Frank as many have mentioned, but I already knew quite a bit about the atrocities lessening it's impact on me perhaps (actually seeing the camps made much more of an impression).

I know I've learned things along the way, I am a font of trivia which occasionally comes in handy.

petite said...

Many memorable novels have made an impact upon me but the one that I felt was unforgettable was by Mary Doria Russell. A Thread of grace which was emotional and beautifully written.

traveler said...

I read Black Like Me many years ago. This year a book that resounded with me was Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English. Meaningful and touching.

Helen said...

I too love Tony Hillerman's novels, not only because of the cultural insights, but also because of the vivid descriptions of the land. Another excellent writer dealing with native American settings is Margaret Coel. In terms of the South and history, I fell in love with "Gone with the Wind" and I later read a very good novel "Jubilee" billed as the flipside of Scarlet's journey.

Rebekah E. said...

There so many great books to choose from. But I would have to say that the book that made the most impact on my would have to be To Kill A Mockingbird.

Kristi said...

I'll have to add Black Like Me to my tbr list. Right now the book that stands out for me the most is The Help. I read it a while ago but I still think about the stories and the characters.

Christie Craig said...

Diane,

Great post. I have a long list of books to read. However, I just got my Rita books to judge. So, I'm going to have lots of reading to do. Amazinly, I usually find a new author I just love, when I judge, so I can't wait.

CC

Judy T. said...

Some memorable books that stand out for me are Flowers in the Attic, Little Women and James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small.

kde2072 said...

I have to agree with several others in the post "To Kill a Mockingbird" had the greatest impact on me. I was born and raised in a small southern town; yet, I could have never imagined this occurring. But prejudices did exist and were passed onto me. I was taught never to marry outside your race. I often questioned my parents if this was a prejudice but was told “God did not intend for us to marry of different color”. Oh, how wrong they were/are. I am thankful to have married a great man who helped me understand the true blessings of a marriage. We teach our children to marrying someone who will love, cherish and honor you... no matter what their color.

robynl said...

JH's All Creatures Great and Small is very profound.

Laura said...

I don't have a favorite writer ...I enjoy all great literary works. I recently read "Water for Elephants," and thought it had been one of the best books I've read in a long time.

An understated by emotionally compelling book that I enjoyed reading in college, and even wrote a paper about, was "Speak" by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Refhater said...

Jane Eye by Charlotte Bronte.

catslady said...

There are so many and I also would like to believe that every book leaves me with something lasting and worthwhile.

Judy said...

The older Classics have made an impact on me. The Diary of Anne Frank, I also read young and was just mesmerized by that book, I could not fathom how she survived as long as she and the others did! I love all the romance books written by Jane Austen, Bronte, etc.

Jana DeLeon said...

The Little House on the Prarie books. There is nothing like them to remind me how good I've got it and how ungrateful we can so easily become.

Estella said...

There are several books that made an impact on me.
Little House on the Prairie books, Gone With the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird and Roots.

joder said...

The Grapes of Wrath and To Kill a Mockingbird were books that made me want to get an English degree in college. They were emotional reads that opened up all sorts of conversation between people. I loved being able to debate them and seeing bits of myself in the stories. They have left an impression on me to this day and I still read them once a year every year.

joderjo402 AT gmail DOT com

Suzan Harden said...

Queenie by Alex Haley

Jeanette J said...

I remember reading To Kill a Mockingbird in school and it made quite an impact on me.

Robin Kaye said...

Louis Nizer's Reflections Without Mirrors: An Autobiography of the Mind made a huge impression on me when I was a kid. I just read it again last year and was still awed by it. The man was an amazing writer, and so much of what he said back then is still so relevant today.

Diane Kelly said...

Thanks to everyone for posting! I know now that I have to read "The Help." Still not sure whether I'm emotionally equipped to read "Diary of Anne Frank." Sad things, especially when violence is involved, tend to haunt me. And reading for entertainment only is just fine, Anne! On the whole, I tend to like things that are simply enjoyable, too, without too much deeper purpose. But occasionally I venture deeper, like I did with "Black Like Me," and find a real gem. I hope you all had a nice MLK holiday! I spent it on a plane coming home from Seattle where I spoke on taxes to the Greater Seattle RWA chapter. What a great bunch! Lots of talent and business savvy up there!

Kammie said...

Oh, I can relate to the a chain-smoking boss who dresses like a sixties go-go dancer. I remember having one of those. hahaha!

I read a story when I was in my early teens that had a different sort of impact on me. It was Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders. Creepy, creepy, and very sad story. Ever since then, I can't read any stories with violence or lots of blood. Can't watch fighter on TV. Oh, and I can't watch scary movies either.

Sue A. said...

I've read so much from such an early time, that I can't pin it down to just a single book or even a single author. I'm grateful to all the authors whose works became a part of my psyche and broaden my mind and opened my heart.

LMcLendon said...

Simply put, The Bible :)
I go to it each day!!

donnas said...

A recent set of books I have read that made an impact are the Wicked series by Gregory Macguire. On the surface they seem to be Wizard of Oz retellings. But when you pay attention they are really a study on society and government today.

Susan P. said...

I remember in high school we had to read Shakespeare and we were all dreading it. Our English teacher, who was from England, fully explained all the words, phrases and terms used and we all understood the plays. It made an impact on me in that I realized how a good teacher could determine understanding.

CrystalGB said...

Great post. I have always found earlier female writers like Mary Shelley, Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen to be inspiring because they had the courage to seek publication of their works.

dhenry said...

love the color purple.

Cherie J said...

I admire Shel Silverstein. Reading The Giving Tree as a young child hooked me on reading.

Cassy Campbell said...

To be honest, Stephen King has had the most impact on me. The man is a mad genius, and when I first read his stories (I started with The Dead Zone at the impressionable age of 12), they opened up the possibility of...more. That we can get more out of life, that there's more in life, than anyone imagines. And the man himself is an inspiration. He's used writing all his life to overcome obstacle after addiction after tragic accident. He's an inspiration.

Angela said...

Great post Diane! I haven't read 'Black Like Me' but it sounds interesting. I'll have to check it out.

Cathy M said...

Can't remember just a single book, though To Kill a Mockingbird was probably my first "grown up" novel.

Have to thank Barbara Cartland and Georgette Heyer for my into to romances, which I still adore to this day.

bison61 said...

I like the book and movie TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee

tiramisu392 (at) yahoo.com

mariska said...

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. Wonderful story !
And it teaches me about life :)

Janean said...

I remember reading The Diary of Anne Frank in school and couldn't belive that happened to a young girl around my age and the horrors she must have with thru. Janean

Maureen said...

I have always liked books that focus on females from Little House on the Prairie to Little Women. I enjoy a strong heroine who deals with the tough times life gives her like Scarlet O'Hara.

Maureen said...

I have always liked books that focus on females from Little House on the Prairie to Little Women. I enjoy a strong heroine who deals with the tough times life gives her like Scarlet O'Hara.

Amy S. said...

I do read The Diary of Anne Frank in high school too. I also watched the movies. I've read Little House on the Prairie books, Tom Sawyer, and Huckleberry Finn. I've never read the book you mentioned, but sounds like I need to.

Caffey said...

When I was a teen, my sister who knew I read so much, gave me ROOTS to read by Alex Hailey. I took that one weekend and I could never get up off the couch to do anything til I got to the end of it. I was totally moved that all this was based on his family history that he wrote this story and I learned so much from that history as well as the strength of Kunte Kinte. I so need to plan to read this again, its been too long and its a very moving book.

cathiecaffey @ gmail.com

sonya said...

the diary of anne frank is the one for me

Robyn said...

I love Cheryl StJohn's books. But, the book that made the biggest impact on me was Og Mandio's book "The Twelfth Angel". It profoundly affected my life and how I view the world.

coolestmommy2000 at gmail dot com