Women Who Raised Me: Episode Two

 

I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea, I grew up with a wonderful, attentive mother. Super parents, both. Really. But a young girl and developing bibliophile requires a whole host of literary mothers to show her the way. It takes a village.

Episode Two: Kate DiCamillo

It's the year 2000 in Lafayette, California. I've been reading the Series of Unfortunate Events and wielding my new vocabulary as best a ten-year-old possibly could. Too much Daniel Handler has made me a little rough around the edges, so my mother has given me a book by a woman, Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo. This is obviously a girl book for girls and I protest, but mom points out that there's a dog on the cover, which would make it a dog book, and that might be okay.

The story is about a ten-year-old girl, Opal, who has just moved to Florida with her emotionally distant father and befriends a rascal sort of dog, who she names Winn Dixie (after the supermarket). Having myself recently moved across the country, to the vast and lonely California, I had that first taste of seeing myself in the characters of a novel. As she lived I could see myself live. As she made choices, I weighed the equivalent conflicts in my own life. And when she thought that maybe Winn Dixie had run away, I cried and cried, right along with Opal. DiCamillo writes with empathy and an understanding of the emotional landscape of a child. She changed my view, at that young age, of what a novel could do, because it suddenly became something more than a form of entertainment. 

 

Next Time: I get my hands on a list of banned books.