My paternal grandmother died a week before her 100th birthday in 2010. She lived a full life and was like Frank Sinatra in that “she did it her way.” Her stories about growing up on a farm in Nebraska fascinate me especially her experience with Charles Lindbergh. “Way before he became famous,” my grandmother said, “Lindbergh flew people in his plane to make money and he gave your grandfather and I a ride while we were dating.”
I remember being in awe when I heard the story for the first time. I recall thinking that my grandmother was the best supplement to my History and English classes that anyone could have imagined. This is one reason why I became interested in Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s writing. In other instances and in regards to other authors my curiosity about them lies in the books themselves. There are some books that open the door to a new world, that remain with you for the rest of your life, and that stand as milestones on your journey to and through adulthood.
Why some books are memorable and eye opening and others are merely good reads depends on the reader; consequently it varies widely by individual. The variability also depends on timing and availability, as in the Buddhist proverb, "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear." My reaction to a book depends on where I am emotionally when I read it.
The following author list is based upon what was of interest to me in a particular time in my life. I’ve included the authors, the book or writing that impacted me the most, relevant screen or stage adaptations, and recent accolades. What are some authors or books that have changed you or you think changed the world?
Yolande Cornelia "Nikki" Giovanni Jr. is an American writer, commentator, activist, and educator. She is currently a distinguished professor of English at Virginia Tech. Rosa, a 2006 Caldecott Honor Book and the winner of the 2006 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award is a picture book tribute to Rosa Parks and a celebration of her courageous action and the events that followed. I remember buying this book at the Multi-Cultural Children’s Book Fair at the Kennedy Center around the time that I happily waited seven hours to pay my respects to Rosa Parks at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda where she became the first woman, and only second African-American, to lie in repose after she died in 2005. Nikki Giovanni signed my four copies of the book of which I treasure.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh (June 22, 1906 – February 7, 2001) was an American author, aviator, and the spouse of fellow aviator Charles Lindbergh. She was an acclaimed author whose books and articles spanned the genres of poetry to non-fiction, touching upon topics as diverse as youth and age; love and marriage; peace, solitude and contentment, as well as the role of women in the 20th century. Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea stands as a seminal work in feminist literature.
Toni Morrison is an American novelist, editor, and professor. Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, and richly detailed characters. Among her best-known novels are The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon and Beloved. Love (2003) is her eighth novel and is one of my favorites next to Song of Solomon. Morrison was also commissioned to write the libretto for an opera, Margaret Garner, first performed in 2005. She won the Nobel Prize in 1993 and the Pulitzer in 1988 for Beloved. On May 29, 2012, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Gloria Naylor won the National Book Award for fiction in 1983 for The Women of Brewster Place. In addition to her novels, Naylor has written essays and screenplays, as well as the stage adaptation of Bailey’s Caf’. The Women of Brewster Place was made into a popular television miniseries starring and produced by Oprah Winfrey, who is an ardent fan of the novel and its writer. Naylor has also founded One Way Productions, an independent film company, and is involved in a literacy program in the Bronx.
Sonia Sanchez—poet, activist, and scholar—was the Laura Carnell Professor of English and Women’s Studies at Temple University. She is the recipient of both the Robert Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime service to American poetry and the Langston Hughes Poetry Award. One of the most important writers of the Black Arts Movement, Sanchez is the author of sixteen books. An extraordinary retrospective covering over thirty years of work, Shake Loose My Skin is a stunning testament to the literary, sensual, and political powers of the award-winning Sonia Sanchez.
Alice Walker was born on February 9, 1944, in Eatonton, Georgia. She worked as a social worker, teacher and lecturer, and took part in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. Walker won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her 1982 novel, The Color Purple, and is also an acclaimed poet and essayist.