It has been a horrible week in the United States. With so many people hurting, I would like to especially acknowledge all of my Black readers and followers. I will never understand the pain you are going through, but I support you. With that said, my heart is broken. This week I have been quietly reflecting and listening. I am taking time to sort through everything. I am having difficult conversations with family and friends, reading more, and understanding more. All, so I can do more. Today I am sharing with you a few things that I am doing to not only educate myself but lend support to those who need it most.
As a community of book lovers, here is one thing we can all do today to show our support for the Black community.
Ponyboy Curtis. Does that name ring a bell? If not, let me fill you in. Ponyboy is the 14-year-old narrator of the coming of age classic, The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton. Hinton started writing this book when she was just a teenager. Her controversial book was published in 1967 when she was 18 years old. Through the decades, The Outsiders has been banned from various school districts and libraries for its portrayal of gangs, violence, underage drinking and smoking, and dysfunctional families. According to the American Library Association,The Outsiders is ranked #43 on the top 100 books challenged between 1990-2000. I first read this book in middle school and again most recently. I really liked it the first time around, but it was my second read through that absolutely sealed the deal. The Outsiders does not disappoint. It has truly stood the test of time.
I’ll break down the basics for you to either jog your memory (for those who have read it way back when) or intrigue you for any newbies. Hinton’s story takes place in 1965, Oklahoma. Ponyboy Curtis lives with his two older brothers, Sodapop and Darry. When their parents are both killed in a car crash, the brothers are allowed to stay together under Darry’s care as long as they pose no trouble. The three brothers, along with a crew of others, are called “greasers”. They are basically low income kids who live on the wrong side of the track. The kids who live on the “other” side of the track are called the socials, or socs for short. You know, “the rich kids”. These two “gangs” were always ready to rumble.
Hinton sets the tone of her book from the start. The characters are introduced, the town is clearly divided and her protagonist easily identified. The story centers around the night Ponyboy and his good friend Johnny are jumped by a couple of the socs. In the middle of their altercation, Johnny accidently kills one of the other boys in order to protect his friend. From there, the story delivers an emotional punch.
In my opinion, S.E. Hinton’s, The Outsiders, is brilliant. Weighing in at only 180 pages, this short novel is chock full of survival and the quest for all things good. Readers will be immersed in a world where family is who you surround yourself with and where you call “home” Right vs. wrong is often defined by the times. It is not always black or white, the gray creeps in begging to be questioned. Loyalty is what keeps you grounded, until it doesn’t. Let me tell you this… The Outsiders has everything. It is the hardness of Hinton’s characters and their lewd behaviors that allow readers to see the difference between right and wrong. It’s the depths of her characters’ emotions that break through their exterior facades that make them truly human and not just one gang vs. another. The controversy of this book gave me a deeper look into the souls of a bunch of lost teenagers, longing to be found.
Hinton gives her readers an inside look into the mind of a 14 year old boy. Ponyboy’s intimate feelings are revealed as he questions the only world he knows. His relationship with Johnny intensifies after their horrible night. The depth of their friendship left a permanent mark on my heart. There will never be a time when I look at my weathered copy of Gone With The Wind, and not think of Ponyboy and Johnny. The cigarettes they smoked and conversations they had, late into the night about a story from another time and another place…..that is the heart of it all. Hinton challenged me to think, why does it have to be just greasers and socs? What happens to all who fall between? How far can one push the wrong in order to feel the right?
Plan to fall in love with Ponyboy. His innocence and curiosity of the outside world will warm your insides. His goodness is raw and beautiful. His love for his family and his friends is uncompromising. His desire to do right in a world that has presented itself so much differently than he chooses to believe, is what will make him into a man I would love to meet one day. I can say this to you today…..I loved this book and hope and pray my boys find something to embrace and cherish from this golden story. Friendship, brotherly love and morality in a confusing world is what I left this story with. Be the change for a better tomorrow.
If you have never read this classic…hop to it. If it has been decades since your first read of it…..it time to revisit. I am not typically a re-reader, but I can attest….the second time around was fantastic. I can promise you this…..I WILL read this again. The third time’s a charm! Stay gold Ponyboy, stay gold!
I wish you all love, good health and a promise of a fabulous tomorrow!
Your Biggest Fan,
P.S. Frances Ford Coppola directed the movie adaptation of The Outsiders in 1983. The cast includes some of my favorites…Matt Dillon (hunk of love), Rob Lowe (yes please), C. Thomas Howell (remember Red Dawn), Ralph Macchio (swoon), Tom Cruise (double swoon), Patrick Swayze (gahhhhh), Emilio Estevez (ooh la la), and Diane Lane (Love her). S.E.Hinton had a cameo appearance in the film playing a nurse! How fun is that?
Wednesday is officially my favorite day of the week. Another fabulous guest writer has written into Mr. H., and this time it is Author, Lisa Barr. Lisa’s most recent novel, The Unbreakables (Harper), came out this past summer, and guess what…it was a five star read for me. In addition to this widely popular summer read, Lisa also wrote the award-winning novel, Fugitive Colors (Arcade). This novel won the IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Award) gold medal for “Best Literary Fiction 2014” and was named on “HEEB” Magazine’s “Top 10” best book list. It also won first prize at the Hollywood Film Festival (Opus Magnum Discovery Award). But did you also know that this well-known author worked in the world of journalism, too? She served as the managing editor for Today’s Chicago Woman and Moment Magazine, editor for The Jerusalem Post, and editor/reporter for the Chicago-Sun Times. Not too shabby!!!!!!! I am so excited to have Lisa on the blog today. She is an inspiring woman to girls and women everywhere. I want to thank her for taking time out of her busy schedule to participate in the series. She is an absolute pleasure to work with. So…without further ado…
Happy Reading Friends,
P.S. Did you know that in 1993, Lisa covered the famous “handshake” between the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat, and President Bill Clinton at the White House? Oh my gosh, she is sooooo cool!🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰
Dear Mr. Hemingway,
It’s a lazy/not lazy Sunday, the first real fall day here in Chicago. I’ve got a fire going strong, a good glass of vino (of course), my dog at my side, and my husband splayed on the couch in the near distance watching football and yelling at the television. Something about a missed field goal. My three daughters are all grown and flown – two are away in college and my eldest baby is officially a working woman in Manhattan – her first job in the real world. It’s just me, my laptop, and my edits that are due. As in yesterday.
But I digress … Earlier this morning, I received one of those pop-up ads on Instagram. A new Nancy Drew TV series debuted this week. And I smiled, thinking about the brilliant teen sleuth who was not doing selfies (back in the day), rather she was developing her sense of self, which came from solving mysteries in her fictional hometown of River Heights. Of all literary characters that came my way, Nancy was my hands-down idol – her life (outside of losing her mother at a young age) was the one I wanted … if only. Childhood was not an easy ride for me and her adventures transported me Elsewhere and inspired both my curiosity to seek the truth and my lifelong love of suspense novels.
I was gifted my first copy nearly forty years ago (where does the time go?), and from that page-turner onward, I devoured the entire series (in order – Hello, Anal-retentive Me). I began, of course, with the author Mildred Wirt Benson’s (pen-named Carolyn Keene) first Nancy Drew mystery, “The Secret of the Old Clock”.
It’s no secret in my house that I credit the feisty young Miss Drew for turning me into a journalist, my life-long job before I became an author.
You can take the girl out of journalism, but not the journalism out of the girl. For me, both careers have worked hand-in-hand and have helped me become a better writer, by providing me with an in-depth understanding of all kinds of characters, all sorts of shenanigans. Forget graduate school, forget professors, forget internships — the hard truth is that Nancy Drew and her courageous posse George and Bess (the original #GirlPower trio) for giving me the goods at a young age. And of course … who didn’t have a crush on Nancy’s boyfriend Nick Nickerson (the name alone …).
Nancy Drew is always with me.
I’m an avid reader with a revolving door of books on a weekly basis. But on my nightstand, there is a permanent place for her. I treasure my vintage copy of The Clue in the Old Album, lucky #24 in the series, originally penned in 1947. This novel shares a permanent home with four other beauties that have each impacted my life and my work in very different ways: The Diary of Anne Frank, S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, and Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying.
As a Mom of three daughters, Nancy Drew, a teen who relies on her instincts and intelligence, is truly a role model for girls of this generation to aim higher than the Bachelor and the Kardashians (although both are, admittedly, guilty pleasures in our household). Nancy hasn’t aged a day and her appeal is timeless (hence, the new TV series). But more importantly, so is her message: Follow the hunch. Write it down. Life is full of sticky situations – learn how to detangle them. Count on yourself – there are no handouts in life. These are all elements I utilize in my own work and my own life. Oh, and did I mention, Mr. Hemingway, that Carson Drew, Nancy’s beloved father – a top-notch criminal attorney – now seen through a middle-aged lens — is super hot? Just sayin’.
Looking out the window, near my fireplace, I can’t help but think that as the leaves begin to change, setting the stage for yet another Chicago Winter – Nancy Drew and her myriad mysteries have withstood the test of time. A fiercely independent role model, she remains inspirational and unstoppable. A young, motherless woman who thrived despite the obstacles in her path, Nancy Drew – was and still is – badass. My kinda girl.
As always … Much love, laughter & literary bliss,
xoxo Lisa Barr
P.S. Would love if you’d check out my new novel, The Unbreakables and my award-winning historical thriller Fugitive Colors. Red wine is must while reading — I’m sure, Mr. Hemingway, you will have no problem with that 🙂
Google It: A History In Google By Anna Crowley Redding
November 13, 2018
Dear Mr. Hemingway,
Who doesn’t love a good backrub? I know it seems odd that I am opening up my letter today talking about something other than books and literary things. Stay with me though, I can explain. I am sure you have heard of the multi-billion dollar company, Google. But did you know that its original name was “Backrub” (no joke)? Well, I sure didn’t. If you are even slightly curious about this piece of Google history, then I urge you to check out Anna Crowley Redding’s hot new YA book, Google It: A History of Google. From Google’s modest beginning run out of a friend’s garage, to its current home in a three million square foot office complex on 68 acres of land, Crowley Redding takes her readers on a behind the scene adventure on how Google really came to be.
While reading Google It, readers will quickly discover that Google started off as a thesis project for Stanford University students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Crowley Redding dives right in by sharing how Page and Brin’s first computer server storage rack was built out of second hand “lego type” building blocks. She continues with how Jennifer Lopez’s infamous dress at the 2000 Grammy Awards was responsible for the creation of Google Images, how the events of September 11th prompted the development of Google News, and how automatic spell corrections during Google Search came about from the constant misspelling of Britney Spears’ name. This and so much more can be found between the covers of this incredible book.
The structure of Crowley Redding’s book is superb. She provides excellent sidebars that offer a plethora of fun tidbits for readers to enjoy. Crowley Redding introduces Page and Brin’s story in perfect chronological order starting from their individual childhoods to the future of Google. Her writing style is accessible and easy to digest for young adult and adult readers alike.
We are living in an age where technology is a part of our everyday lives. The days of looking up information in books and encyclopedias are long gone. It is so easy to take for granted how fast we can access information of any kind with a click of a mouse and how our cars practically drive themselves on autopilot because of Google Maps. Google It will no doubt highlight the advancements Google has made in the past 25+ years. Most importantly though, Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s true story will show you how impossible ideas can turn into something completely possible, influential, and life-changing for all of mankind. Their story of hard work and determination will inspire young ones to build the unimaginable with their plastic building blocks, code the next big video game and take us to places far far away.
Google It, by Anna Crowley Redding, is a book for now. It is not only a book filled with mind-blowing information but a book filled with dreams and inspiration. This story truly belongs on everyone’s bookshelf.
Read it, love it, share it, and for goodness sake…GOOGLE IT!!!!!
Your Biggest Fan,
P.S. Anna Crowley Redding is a former Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter. Be on the lookout for her upcoming YA book, ELON MUSK: A Mission To Save The World (July 2019), and her picture book titled Rescuing The Declaration of Independence: How We Almost Lost The Words That Built America, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham (2020). This author is one to watch. Feel free to GOOGLE Anna Crowley Redding’s name. I’m sure you will find her at annacrowleyredding.com and @annacrowleyredding on FB and Instagram.