Tucson Festival of Books: Return of my Past

Should I have gone to law school? Making the decision to not attend Vermont Law School, when Brook was 2 years old, wasn’t easy. I can let it go now, even as I listened to the brilliant and very funny Linda Hirshman, an attorney and the author of “Sisters in Law” (about Justices O’Connor and Ginsburg), at the 8th annual Tucson Festival of Books.

Was it just yesterday that I read “Death at an Early Age” by Jonathan Kozol, and discovered that the Boston schools were as segregated as many schools in the South? In the early 1960s, Boston School Committee Chair Louise Day Hicks was adamantly opposed to school bussing for desegregation (who could easily have been Donald Trump’s mother; that’s how bad she was). When she ran for mayor in 1967, her slogan was “You know where I stand.”

Saturday morning, I helped Jonathan Kozol get to his TFOB venue on the University of Arizona campus. He’s pretty old now (way older than me), crotchety but still sharp. And he’s right:

“We still run an apartheid education system in America.” We’re also succumbing to a “misery agenda” of testing and terror, which is inflicted on both kids and teachers.

I also agree with Kozol regarding the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among others. Charity is not a substitute for systematic inequality.

Jared Diamond’s session (he’s the author of the blockbuster Pulitzer Prize winner, “Guns, Germs, and Steel”) focused on evolution and change, which got me thinking. Although there’s always been change, it now proceeds at such a rapid pace.

Or does it?

It’s 2016, but Kozol still must talk of apartheid in today’s educational system. A Boston bigot had lots of support back in the day.

That day has returned, or perhaps, never entirely disappeared.

Bigotry and divisiveness seem worse these days, even as we make progress, such as with our fabulous first black president, who’s such a decent, smart man.  Women don’t yet receive equal pay, but I’ll bet our next president is a woman.

The dissolution of the middle class doesn’t help. The March 14 New York Times editorial notes:

“Mr. Trump’s calls to violence are the sickest part of the con that is his presidential campaign. Yes, some people who attend his rallies are bigots; others are simply upset with a nation, or a life, that’s dealt them a bad hand.”

And me, I take this educational and political turmoil to heart, but not as much as when I was young. Age brings not resignation, but a more mellow heart, which brings me to the most tender reminder of my past at this year’s book festival.

For me, the highlight was meeting up with Avi, author of “The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle” and “Nothing But the Truth” (probably my favorite of his 75 books). He recommended “Catch you Later, Traitor” about McCarthyism, which I bought.

Avi visited my OZ bookstore in Maine around 25 years ago. I can recall sitting around a table on the Claremont Boat House deck, overlooking Southwest Harbor on a glorious summer day. I think Brook was there, and also Chris, one of the Ozettes (were you, Chris?).

He was quirky back then, and smart (he still is). We had a fascinating conversation all those years ago, sipping on gin and tonics.  I have no memory of what it was about.

On Sunday, Avi presented such a tender view of his writing life, including a slide show that included a radio play he wrote at age 5 or 6. He was so kind to a 12-year-old girl who asked a question about her writing. If you’re not already, he told all of us, “Become immersed in the book culture.” (People always ask writers about their “process,” but we’re all unique. I agree with Avi. Writers must first be voracious readers.)

avi (3)

The still prolific author in his late 70s. He’ll keep writing. Like me, Avi’s much more mellow now. But his writing is as exciting as ever. He read the beginning of his next book aloud on his computer. Here’s what I heard: “In which I introduce myself and immediately plunge myself into a desperate situation…”

The past hasn’t left me, although I somehow feel braver and more ready for adventure than I did during my younger years. Thank you to books and their authors!








This entry was posted in For Love of History, Politics, The inconvenient truth about education, Tucson Festival of Books/good books, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Tucson Festival of Books: Return of my Past

  1. This is a lovely account, Sheila, as well as a lovely photo of you with Avi! Makes me hope to attend someday. xoxox

  2. sheilawill says:

    Thanks Annie! Let me know when your fabulous novel will be out and I’ll make it happen…March 2017?

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