For the first time ever, I offer for your reading fascination, a memoir by an author I actually know (and I don't mean the way I know Pat Conroy, although I still consider him a close, personal friend).
The book is Power In The Blood: A Family Narrative by the great and powerful Linda Tate.
Dr. Tate was one of my college professors. She was truly a master teacher -- always perfectly organized and ready to help her students gain knowledge. She was also my supervisor for a time in a college Writing Center.
The first day of class, I went to her to ask if I could take papers she was going to hand out in class to my house to copy them rather than spend money on the copiers in the library. She very kindly trusted me with her originals although she had only seen me once before. I admitted to her that I found the syllabus for the class rather daunting, and she blithely said, Not to worry.
Dr. Tate was right. I had no reason to worry. She guided us through that class so perfectly that it was truly a privilege to be there. And then when she returned my first paper to me, my grade was an "A". More importantly, she had written on it that she had now made the acquaintance of an original thinker.
ME? An original thinker? I often made a point of telling people that I had never had an original thought in my life. But by the time the class ended, I had learned more than writing and tutoring techniques that improved my own writing and ability to teach. I had learned for the first time in my life that I was creative.
Dr. Tate, I owe such a debt to you.
And now for Power In The Blood: Tate looks back at a legacy of family violence, creating voices for family members long gone that seem so true you would think she had been in the room with them. She also faces unflinchingly the manner in which her troubled family affected her. Her research is excellent and her writing absolutely beautiful.
I remember, Dr. Tate, hearing you say that you loved to dance. I had no idea that you loved dancing as a child and that your nickname was Dancing Bear.
I considered the possibility of quoting each of the main characters in this book so you, Gentle Readers, could hear the unique voices Tate creates, but, really, you should read this beauty of a book for yourself.
I'll quote only a small portion:
I gathered friends for a celebration. We danced to tunes on the stereo and sang at the top of our lungs. We sang "Jubilee" and "West Virginia, My Home," "When the Rainbow Comes" and "How Can I Keep from Singing?" We hung the flag [depicting dancing bears] at the top of the stairs, up near the top of this expansive house, right next to the door that led to my writing studio. The flag proclaimed, with joy and gusto, "This is the home of Dancing Bear, a woman who dances and sings, writes and plays, loves and cries with fierceness and passion!"
When the light hits it just right and the fabric shimmers just so, I could swear those bears are keeping time with me.
Dr. Tate, I didn't share my personal life with you when I was your student, and I realize you probably won't read this post; but I want you to know that for the first time in my life I live on my own. No one punches me now. The child who came to the Writing Center with me occasionally, that child is a mathematician. And I am so proud to be able to call myself a writer and you made a major contribution to that accomplishment.
And I am so proud of your accomplishments.
Infinities of love,