Which books shaped you? It's a simple question, but often tight up in so much memory.
As a life-long reader, I can remember many moments in my life when I wanted to cry for the sheer joy of the words I was reading. I wanted to reach into the book and pull the character out, so I could meet him or her. They seemed to have given me so much (and I could never give anything in return!
One of the books I've loved (and learned from) was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Francie Nolan is a strong female character (young), who overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds (and she LOVES to read). It seemed that if I could read about the brutal realities of this fictional young girl, that somehow it would be possible to rise above whatever crossed my path. As Francie's life came to life upon the page, I felt there must be hope for me (that I'd make it, that I'd become something I'd never yet even dreamed of becoming).
The novel inspires us to "reach for the sky"--as NPR broadcasted today! As Kee Malesky says, "Francie and her struggles - some very unpleasant things happen to her - did make me think that I could be strong and self-reliant, and do whatever I wanted with my life." (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is currently also being featured as one of the 88 "Books That Shaped America" in an exhibition running until September--according to NPR).
In A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith writes: "Look at everything as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time." It's precious (more than we could ever know, or hope to imagine...)