The National Book Festival is just around the corner, and I plan to attend for the first time. I love visiting DC, so it was an easy decision to plan a day at the National Mall that celebrates all things literary. What’s not to love about a fall day with nothing to do but meet authors and find out about new books?
In preparation for the fun, I’m happy to introduce you to one of the authors I’ll be visiting. Hester Bass is a fellow Candlewick author and a downright lovely person. We met last year at the Ezra Jack Keats Awards, where the work of Gulf Coast artist Walter Anderson and Hester’s beautiful picture book about him (The Secret World of Walter Anderson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis) were the subjects of an exhibit during the festivities.
Please look for her Saturday, September 22, from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., at the Alabama booth in the Pavilion of the States. MM
Superheroes, Save Us!
In America today, it seems we live in the Cult of the Hero. The word is so overused and thus diluted that its definition is endangered, although its true meaning is felt all too acutely every September 11. A bold act of courage or selflessness is easier to recognize than invisible efforts to save the intangible, but there are people saving the culture of America every day and yes, they deserve to be called heroes.
America The Melting Pot retains some pockets of distinct culture, and it is often because some Superheroes saved the day by stepping in to preserve the art, the music, or the flavor of a region when threatened by various “villains” ranging from gentrification to “Generica,” the relentless march of branding across our country and the world.
Independent thinkers see the world in their own special way and make a contribution to society just by being themselves. When they see something worth keeping, they don’t wait for the perfect circumstances to come along; they just go about the business of saving a local independent bookstore, for example, one cash mob at a time.
I enjoy reading and writing about American Heroes of Culture such as Walter Anderson, the Gulf Coast artist who preserved his luminous view of the natural world around him in art of many colors and forms nearly too numerous to name. I kept waiting for someone to write a book for children about him until I realized that it must be my job, so I wrote The Secret World of Walter Anderson, my attempt to become not just a consumer but also a creator of culture. Anderson’s legacy was nearly swamped by Hurricane Katrina, along with the distinct culture of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and other locales, but people worked diligently to save it and so it survives.
Anderson’s work usually inspires the viewer to step back and look at his or her own surroundings with new eyes – just what art should do: refresh and renew those who come in contact with it. That’s what independent thought does as well: refresh and renew all those who experience it.
This year is full to the brim with “versus” that threaten to fracture this country – Democrat vs. Republican, e-book vs. print, online vs. in-person, and the list can go on and on. The culture of America is worth saving, so please allow these words to be your cape-and-tights: Think independently. Consider what in your community makes you happy, serves others, and preserves (or creates) culture and find a way to save it – even if it is simply the spirit of kindness, the charm of civil discourse, or the delights of cooperation. Remember the rugged individualism that made America great and reject the extreme jingoism that is tearing it down. Think independently. Act locally. Sometimes the Superheroes of Culture, those who can truly save us, are us.