Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Letter For Today - #26

        This is my 26th slice with Stacey and Ruth at the Two Writing Teachers March SOLC  

Go over to visit Jen and Kellee at It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA at teach mentor texts.                                                           

                                                        Sunday night, 3/25/2012

Dear Readers,

I managed to finish one book this week, and have made a number of connections with it that are awesome.  First of all, I realized as I thought about the book I’m sharing today that Tuesday I wrote a post about the importance of students and teachers writing letters to each other several times a week.  Second, in that post I talked about the communication that happens when we write, publish, and comment back and forth with each other, something like letters.  And finally, among the many well wishes I received this week from others, some wrote letters, and from their writing showed me something about the person who wrote.  As they communicated via ‘slow’ mail, so will I too, to thank them. 
I love telling you I read an amazing book this week, one that moved plot in such interesting ways, perhaps because it was written in letters, and also because the two main characters, becoming pen pals, were each given a voice by a different writer.  Meena, an immigrant young woman who lives in NYC with her family, is from India and the writer who creates her story is Neela Vaswani.  River, so named because his mother loves the Cumberland River, is a young man living in rural Kentucky.  Silas House creates his story.  The book is Same Sun Here.

Connecting this book, Same Sun Here, with our own posts, I see that slowly, slowly we in The March Slice of Life Challenge have grown to know one another during this month.  The Monday, What Are You Reading group is growing, but we only post on Mondays, so it’s not happening as quickly.  We have done it by giving information about ourselves-funny, delightful, thoughtful, and sorrowful, often in quite creative ways like photos, poetry, and text with different voices, different colors, and different arrangements.  The possibilities are limited only because of time. 
Both River and Meena in Same Sun Here do the same.  Slowly they begin to know about each other, offering friendly facts first, but as the letters continue, more serious topics are taken up.  Vaswani is clever to let us know exactly this city girl, practical and forthright.  Meena says:  I wonder what you look like.  I am short and skinny.  This is a good thing for squeezing on the subway. and In New York, the buildings are like mountains in some ways, but they are only alive because of the people living in them. Real mountains are alive all over. House has River reply: I’ve always heard that people from up there are real rude and will not hold the door for you and you’ll get mugged if you walk down the street.  Is this true?  His mother is sick, we learn, and then he tells:  My mother and I live with Mamaw now.  We used to have our own good house up on Free Creek, but now we live over here right outside the town of Black Banks, in the house Daddy grew up in.
Meena and River develop a friendship through their letters that takes them to being best friends, supportive when needed, but they do disagree sometimes too.  Moving to the next letter means the authors have created a natural cliffhanger and although some of the information is repeated by the other person, we readers must jump into the other person’s story quickly, reading avidly to see what’s happening to them.   Sometimes there are some crises, and I am reminded how quickly we are able to communicate today, and remember that my mother has told me that in World War II, sometimes they didn’t hear from anyone in the war for months.  These letters keep us guessing quickly, wondering when the book will switch and/or when.  Meena and River respond to each other thoughtfully, answering questions asked and discovering information that is mentioned too.  For example, River asks about the Poetry In Motion idea that places famous poetry in the subway for riders’ enjoyment.  Meena answers, but also tries a poem as a pleasant reply back to River. 
I know that many will enjoy this sweet book.  As River’s and Meena’s stories become more complex, personal tragedy and public issues touch both of their lives.  They gain trust in each other, and so too do we as readers moving deeply in touch with the story.  It is interesting to see how the plot turns to important stuff, serious stuff, stuff that each child can help the other do something about.   Without the intimacy that occurs letter by letter and post by post, none of you would have posted about the more serious and personal challenges.  Unlike these two pen pals, Meena and River, you would have written basic information and might have become a little disinterested. 
Meena and River didn’t quit.  They kept writing because they cared, and then cared some more.
Hope your week is a good one.  I’m going to try to get some chores done but it is my spring break, so while I’m not going to the beach, I do plan to sleep in a bit. And I do have some important plans to make for my husband, but it's a 'wait and see' time right now for him.
 I would send you the book but I borrowed it at my school library.  I hope you can find it and read it real soon!



P.S. Write back soon!

P.P.S  I have a lot of TBR books for this week, and I hope to read at least one, Throwing Shadowsa book of short stories. by E.L. Konigsburg, a favorite author.  


CSPeterson said...

I love your letter about a book of letters! I will put this one on my TBR list too. I really like the idea of letters. My mother used to write them regularly back and forth with her good friends. There is something so special and rare about getting a letter in the mail from a friend. You have inspired me yet again - perhaps I will set aside some regular time for writing out some real letters by hand to go in the snail mail!

Jen said...

Dear Linda,

I too am delighted to be part of this community and find myself becoming so very connected. I agree that because we are drawing from way down deep things to write about, the things that are very near and dear to our hearts, our writing then will be powerful and moving. Even in those posts where we don't feel inspired, I think if it comes from that place, there will be a kernal, a nugget of this truth about the human experience and here in our comments we find that for each other and help it to grow, help each other to grow.

Thinking of you this week. I'm on spring break too. My daughter's birthday party is tomorrow - a cheerleading party. I found pom poms and some cheers. I think it should be fun. After that - just sleeping in and playing with the kids!



Anita Ferreri said...

Dear Linda,
You certainly hit a "chord" when you describe the power of writing letters. Perhaps it was because you connected the story with your own letter / post. Or perhaps it was the way you connected the sharing that is part of letter writing with this "slicing" experience. You are so write about the power of connecting through words.
My mom waits every day for the mail delivery and rarely, very, very rarely is there anything but fliers. I know she misses the chatty, newsy, written over the week letters from my aunt that used to be her mail. I know we all have that same kind of experience when we log on excitedly to check our comments.
The power of connecting is very real this month as we share the good, not so good, funny and sad slices of life that make up life.
Thank you for making me stop and think this morning. Maybe I just might write my mom and note - or at least a card!

elsie said...

Dear Linda,

I am so glad you are going to be able to take some time for yourself this week, plus deal with matters of life.
As you began describing this book it made me think of another book written through letters, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. Plus for kids the books by Alma Flor Ada, Dear Peter Rabbit and others that are fairy tale characters writing to each other. It is so interesting to learn about the characters through what they say and do. I will have to look for this title.
Rest up and enjoy your week.

Your slicing friend,

Katherine Sokolowski said...

Dear Linda,
I read The Same Sun Here two weeks ago when Jen and Colby started their discussion on it. I loved that both River and Meena wanted to write paper and pencil letters vs. email. I also enjoyed how their friendship blossomed through the course of their year spent writing letters.

I agree, that our little community of slicers have gotten to know each other better over the month of March. That's an added benefit I hadn't counted on. So wonderful!

Enjoy your spring break!
Your friend,

Stacey from Two Writing Teachers said...

Dear Linda,

I fear that letter writing is becoming one of those lost arts as we get deeper into the 21st century. Sure there are e-mails, but they're becoming increasingly casual.

Your post has inspired me to write a letter to Isabelle as my slice today. Thanks!

My best,

Storykeeper said...

My mom used to write long letters. I was often to much in a hurry to appreciate them. I rarely wrote. I was quick to pick up the phone.

Your post made me think and reflect. Thinking about books and my students, Thinking about all the things and people I care so deeply about.

I am glad you will have some time to focus on your family without the demands of school. No answer comes in black and white. It changes and ripples, altering and being altered.

You know you will make the best decision you can. That is a given. What is staring at you waiting in ambush is knowing where this journey will probably lead.

I pray for you a hand to hold, a soul to hug, and a friend to help heal.

Mrs. V said...

I hope that you enjoy your spring break. We are also on spring break, and I agree with you - I want a balance of productivity and rest.

I always love to see the possibilities for ways to slice. Your letter expanded my thoughts about the possibilities.

Nanc said...

Thank you for sharing the book. I think I will get it as soon as I'm back home. The whole idea of writing 'snail letters' is appealing to me. I'm in a area of CA where my grandma lived...such a long time ago...we got letters at least once a week. You have to write letters to get letters, my dad would always say. xo

Linda said...

Linda- My spring break is next week. I'm going to look for Same Sun Here. I really need something to take my mind off of worries. I hope you enjoy your break and find some time to relax.
All best to you!

Dana said...

I downloaded this book on my kindle two days ago. I'm excited to read it! Enjoy your spring break (I'm on break too!).

Tara said...

This is on my Spring Break list (can't wait!). I love the idea of a letter format as a slice, I'll have to borrow it this week. Have a safe and restful week,Linda - I hope the weather is Spring-like for your Spring Break, Linda!

Irene Latham said...

Linda, I just finished this one last night! I'm a big fan of epistolary novels and also a big fan of Silas House, so I knew I needed to read this one. I loved how simple yet meaningful it was, and how it got into political and environmental activism issues without being preachy. Good stuff! And I love how you are connecting your reading to your life.

Tam said...

I love stories where there are letters written and the letters are a mainstay for the plot itself. I use to love to write letters. A couple of years ago, I decided to buy some stationary, and couldn't find a box. All there is now is notes and an occasional sheets of different colored papers with different colored envelopes. Or you could buy pretty computer paper. I remember how important writing was. My grandkids live an hour and 3 hours away. Every month, I try to send them something small and always enclose a small printed letter. I think they should experience letters. Glad you have some time off.

Heartfeather said...

Dear Linda,
I too enjoy letters. I have gotten away from them in the classroom...but after reading your post was once again reminded of the richness in the sharing and building community.
Thanks and also glad you have some time.

JenniferM said...

Neat post! That book is going on my never-ending "want to read" list! I love how you connected the letter-writing to the way we get to know each other through Slices of Life. I love letters too, and someday I will post about the letters my husband and I wrote when I lived in Spain for a semester.

Amy Rudd said...

Dear Linda,
You have inspired a post for me...still crafting it out (maybe) it will be tonight's slice.
I have to check out this book! Thanks for the suggestion!

BK said...

i LOVE the letter medium and i love your book reviews. How about that?

wakeupandwrite said...

Dear Linda,
Thank you so much for your book review. I have read other letters as books and books that are letters and they are a favorite of mine. Do you remember the children's picture book The Jolly Postman?
I will look for this book with anticipation.

PS - I'm not sure I even remember the proper form for writing a letter!

wakeupandwrite said...

Dear Linda,
Thank you so much for your book review. I have read other letters as books and books that are letters and they are a favorite of mine. Do you remember the children's picture book The Jolly Postman?
I will look for this book with anticipation.

PS - I'm not sure I even remember the proper form for writing a letter!

Karen said...

Dear Linda,

I loved your thoughts about the connections between the book that you were reading with our posts here as we blog. Cathy had a similar post today about how she was encouraging us to continue slicing, continue nurturing one another as writers.

I haven't quite figured out how to do the Monday, What Are You Reading with the slicing. Wish I could be clever like you and come up with the idea of writing a letter.

I do plan on slicing on Tuesdays after March, and being a more regular poster on Mondays as well. People like you are the reason I just can't quit after this.


Mardie said...

Dear Linda,

I love books that are in letter format. Letters are so personal, so one-to-one that they make me feel like that proverbial fly on the wall. I definitely want to read this book, Same Sun Here.


Kellee said...

Between you, Colby and Jen all loving this book, I definitely need to get my hands on it.

Peace, Locomotion is another good book in letter format (sequel to Locomotion which is in verse).

Happy reading this week!!

Maria said...

I hope to have Same Sun Here in my hands soon. I've heard nothing but good things.

Have a good week!

Jen said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed Same Sun Here! I love your letter to the book and to your friends who read your blog. I love sending hand-written notes and letters but I don't do it often enough myself. I have a set of hand-crocheted washcloths to send to a friend but I have to sit down and write the letter to her first. I also have a book for each of my nephews to send. I remember loving to get mail when I was a kid and feeling like I never got enough of it. I need to add that to my spring break to do list!

Kristi Lonheim said...

I love the idea that commenting back and forth is akin to letter writing. Thanks for that thought.