When I think of all the questions from students who have read my book, and of the wise words I have heard spoken by teachers and professors, and of the anxiety that troubled and impoverished students often bring into the classroom setting, all life weighed in the scales of my own life seems to me a preparation for a public sharing of my personal story, so that something bad never happens to a child who I will never know.
The modern and somewhat cynical line on first time authors is that they should not quit their day jobs. Book sales are dismal or nonexistent; the opportunities for contemporary recognition, minuscule; and the chances for posthumous celebration, hardly to be taken seriously. In other words, don’t expect to be rewarded if you are thinking about writing a book. I’m taking a contrarian view after having spent the past year communicating with students and educators from Texas to New Jersey, from New York to California.
There are so many ways an author can be rewarded other than contemporary recognition, revenue from book sales and posthumous celebration. I decided to write a memoir, not as an enduring imprint on the literary world, but as an inspirational message for children in poverty and troubled teens to stay motivated and remain in school. If I, a unique human being, can share the wisdom acquired through my own personal childhood struggles, in a way that will inspire one child to persevere, or motivate one troubled teen to stay in school, then that alone would be a great reward.
While I have accomplished many times over what I originally set out to do, there were unexpected lessons that I took away from this experience. Among those is the rarefied human quality of sweet innocence that can only exist in the young. As we grow older and our children leave home to pursue their own dreams, we tend to lose patience with other children who are acting out, and we are quick to judge a troubled teen that has made bad choices.
Children are delicate things with curious imaginations and no one understands that better than our educators. During the 2010-2011 school year, I have the privilege of working with students and teachers from middle schools, junior high schools, high schools and at universities. They are students who have read my book in a classroom setting, or as required reading in social studies regarding behavioral patterns among the various social economic classes.
I have learned valuable lessons from this experience. First, the teacher and the students all share a common desire to have a framework for understanding our total system of values, beliefs, attitudes, traditions, and standards of behavior that regulate life—in other words, we are continuously learning from each other. Secondly, regardless of age it is never too late to use the sociological imagination to learn a lot and understand a lot about life.
The futile aspects of life have never deterred the young from doing things they want to do and that is the message we adults, regardless of age, can learn all over again. Persevering is a lifelong quest. If you want to write a novel, then write your novel. We have traded the sweet innocence of youth for the great wisdom of experience. It is such a waste if you do not put that acquired knowledge to work doing something that you always wanted to do.