Seeing Past Z, Singapore, and what a difference time makes

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Earlier today, while I was crawling my way back onto my feet, I was stopped by a letter originating in Singapore and come to me by way of W.W. Norton, New York City.  A handwritten, many-paged letter from a certain G, who was writing to tell me, among other things, that she had found my fourth book, Seeing Past Z:  Nurturing the Imagination in a Fast-Forward World, "at the corner of the library where suggested readings and new arrivals are placed—a very prominent place where every visitor would or could see." G went on, then, to tell me her story, about finding faith in the imagination within a country intensely focused on banking and finance.  It is G's story, and I shall not repeat it.  But I kept returning to the impossibility of this little book having made its way across the seas. 

How?

When I published Z with Alane Mason in 2004, we were both swimming upstream, and we knew it.  I was writing about the importance of free time in an era when most children had anything but—when resumes were being finessed at five, and when intra-kid competition ruled (there is only ever number one).  I was writing about the aspiring writers who wrote poems with me or talked Jack London with me or dared each other to listen well to scene-inspiring music.  I was writing about "wisdom over winning," about "contentment over credentials, imagination over conquest, the idiosyncratic point of view over the standard-issue one."

I was writing, it must be said, unpopularly.  I was, among some, considered foolish.

Slow parenting has ebbed in since.  Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman have written, as recently as last week, a Newsweek cover story entitled "The Creativity Crisis."  Many parents have at last taken their kids off the fast track so that the kids could leave tracks of their own.

It is six years and eight books later.  It is me, perpetually ahead of or behind the times, not grabbing headlines, not riding the trend waves, watching books I have loved go remaindered.  It is also, today, G, in a blue-ink letter, on black-lined paper—G from Singapore saying this:  Your words have found their home.

6 comments:

Holly said...

oh, this is so wonderful!

Kelly H-Y said...

How amazing. I must read your '...Z' book, it sounds right up the alley of what we've been talking about with a few of the other parents on my son's sports teams. It seems so many have lost track of giving 'free time' to their children ... they're hiring personal coaches for the poor things, so they're burned out before they're even in high school. And, for those of us who don't agree with the approach, it's a delicate balance when our child may be on the same team as others in that situation. So very fascinating!

Maya Ganesan said...

That's absolutely wonderful, to get that kind of letter so many years later. It's good to know that there are people out there who appreciate you, whether you know it or not :)

Becca said...

"Slow parenting"...I didn't know there was a name for it, way back in the early 1980's when I eschewed the burgeoning fast track that my son's little friends were setting out on. I'm only glad I have the memories of his hours at home writing stories and making movies and drawing pictures - spending hours of time growing his imagination.

How wonderful that your words of wisdom are making their way into other cultures.

Lilian Nattel said...

That's beautiful, Beth. And exciting--to know your words are appreciated and read that far away. Things that are extremely popular generally reflect the current wisdom. That which increases wisdom takes time to become known and longer to become a part of the fabric of "common" sense.

Beth F said...

Wow. This is one of my biggest gripes of kids today -- so much regulation and pressure. What happened to being shooed outside to play? Yeah, I'm just that old.

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