“Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness.” This day in literature: on this day in history, June 27, 1880 Helen Keller was born.
In the second grade my Educational assistant/braille transcriber brought me into the small teacher’s lounge in the tiny school in the village near my house. A few afternoons a week she would read to me. This was the start of something…
She read me a book entitled, “Helen Keller’s Teacher” (written by Margaret Davidson), a Scholastic children’s biography which told the story of Anne Sullivan and her childhood in Ireland during the potato famine of the mid 19th century; her immigration to America and her hardships as an orphan; and then how she found her lifelong student Helen Keller. At eight years of age I was barely able to tell the difference and was unfamiliar with the classifications of fiction and non-fiction. This was a true story of a well-known blind/death icon and yet I listened, over those afternoons, with rapt attention to the story, with little understanding of the importance of the history I was being taught. It was only some time later that it hit me just how true the story really was and what extraordinary lives these really were, once lived.
Most are familiar with the famous scene with Anne and Helen at the water pump. This is the one I was most excited to see come alive in the 1962 film version of The Miracle Worker, but I was touched by these women in many more ways that even I could not imagine at the time.
On this amazing woman’s birthday I had to recognize the difference she has made in my life and how that all started back in that little teacher’s lounge, all those years ago. Helen learned to read and write from Anne Sullivan and I learned about literature and books, thanks in huge part to the specialty teachers I was lucky to have as a child. All these women got me where I m today and it all began with Helen. Her love for language is the same as mine. We realize the impact words and characters in books have on our imaginations and as a way of bringing us out of our shells.
Books, authors, and educators go a long way in bringing us, at least myself, toward a Utopia, a more perfect world of acceptance, tolerance, and understanding.