Patti's post about the importance of libraries brought to my mind the essential nature of my own childhood library, the Ernie Pyle Memorial Library in my hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
A newly-discovered portrait of the famous WWII journalist Ernie Pyle is his last:a photograph taken just moments after his death.The body that housed all those words lies still and immortalized in black and white.
Ernie Pyle housed other words in a very literal way – words that meant survival to me, long after he was gunned down by a Japanese machine gun on a Pacific Island in 1945.
When I moved to Albuquerque as a ten-year-old girl in 1962, I devoured the written word. From the time I was a toddler I had wondered at the magic of black marks on white paper and determined I would solve those mysteries; and once I learned to read I was voracious.Previously living in the raw-boned boomtown of Farmington New Mexico, I never went to a library.One Christmas my mother gave me six cheaply-bound books:Alice in Wonderland, The Five Little Peppers, Black Beauty, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Little Women, and Treasure Island. I read each of them seven times.
But once we moved to Albuquerque I discovered to my delight that there was a library just ten blocks away, down the Chinese-elm-lined street of Girard Avenue. I discovered the Olive Book of Fairy Tales (and the Red, and the Blue, and the Yellow, and the Brown…)I delighted in every Oz book Frank Baum ever wrote.I found a whole collection of books about American Indians, and read every one in the little library, even the adult and scholarly ones.(I once even read a book called the Chisel-Tooth Tribe, thinking that the author would stop talking about beavers and other mammals and get around to talking about Indians.)Then I discovered the books about ancient Egypt, and I adopted another culture.
The walls of wonder in that library were a cosmography for my young mind.
Every few days I would bicycle furiously down the street with my wire basketful of books secured with a belt.On the way home, I would often stop pedaling altogether as the strapped-down open book on top snagged my attention.I would scramble off the bicycle just before it toppled.The books and I would sit under a stranger’s tree until I finished a chapter, and I would pedal home.
I didn’t want to return there, to where I lived. It was a place of fits of rage, of crazed threats and screams in the night. It was a place where the emotions of adults ambushed children.I didn’t have the language to express it then.Now I would speak of mental illness, of schizophrenia.
The only refuge was high in the weeping willow tree, or hiding on the cool flagstone beneath the lilac bush. The only insulation was the world of books.
I survived that world, outlasted it, really.I went away from it to college, deliberately forged my own sturdy and loving family.
I write my own books now, sixteen of them published so far.I have written books of faith, to help other women have hope.I have written a book about a child who has bad dreams and is helped by a multi-colored quilt and dreams of escape to wondrous worlds.My newest books explore mysteries -- mysteries of plot, mysteries of the human soul.
I go back to that little library sometimes.What once seemed a kaleidoscope of ideas I now see as a tiny residence, where books, up until recently, were even shelved in the bathtub.It is the modest “little white house and picket fence” that Ernie Pyle often wrote about, the one he and his wife built, made into a public library after his death. His dog Cheetah’s grave is still there. Ernie built that very picket fence.It is a library that demands also to be seen still as a home.
I look at the photograph, the serenity of Ernie Pyle’s face in death.
I thank him for his home, the safe haven for my young mind.
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Praise for Novel Matters Authors
Lying on Sunday: "Sharon has created a character so vivid and real you'll feel as though you've stepped into Abbie Torrington's life. You don't want to miss this beautiful story of healing and grace" Virginia Smith, author of Age Before Beauty.
The Feast of Saint Bertie: "A story-feast from the get-go! The Feast of Saint Bertie is a surprising, engaging, unique story that will challenge readers to rethink what it means to be a Christ-follower in today's crazy, materialistic culture. With vivid characters, unconventional settings, and a beautifully unfolding plot, this book is the kind that will stay with you, like the fond memory of a great meal."~Mary E. DeMuth, author of Watching the Tree Limbs and Wishing on Dandelions.
Talking to the Dead: “It isn’t often that I get so hooked on the characters and story that I forget time and purpose. Talking to the Dead caught hold of my heart from page one. It takes a gifted and intuitive writer like Bonnie to bring humor into the middle of such a serious story. Call her the Jodi Piccoult of Christian fiction! Beautifully done! I can’t wait to read the next story she writes.” ~Francine Rivers, bestselling author of Redeeming Love
Latter Day Cipher: "Latter-Day Cipher involves the reader not only in a page-turning murder mystery, but also in the struggles of those who must face their own shaken beliefs. A former faithful Mormon, author Scott is sympathetic to those struggles, and attempts to look compassionately at the process of making the hard decision to change."—Sandra Furlong Christian Retailing (Latter Day Cipher is a "top pick" March 2009)
Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon: "An unusual plotline and top-notch prose mark this talented novelist’s debut...competent dialogue, touches of humor, and sparkling character dynamics make this a welcome addition to the faith fiction fold." --Publishers Weekly
The Queen of Sleepy Eye: “Few stories are able to portray both the crushing cost of sin and the transforming power of grace. The Queen of Sleepy Eye succeeds brilliantly. Patti Hill crafts each word with beauty and artistry.” Sharon Hinck, author of Stepping into Sunlight