When I was in grade school, a nosy neighbor decided my parents were too conservative, so she loaned me some of her old books by Helen Van Slyke. My parents let me read anything in book form, so we were good to go. Helen was a divorced New York City career woman with views unlike those I would encounter in my hometown. Today, as I cull my book collection, I am revisiting some of those titles with a more mature perspective. Others may read her work and come away with an entirely different view, but here are some of the elements that jump out at me:
- Everyone has affairs:
- Money doesn’t protect you from problems.
Then: Really? I’d love to be rich! (Brutal honesty about who I was then.)
Now: Money offers a shield, but not from all problems.
- Jews face discrimination.
Then: I don’t understand why.
Now: I am better acquainted with why and don’t agree with those ideas.
- Men use women.
Then: This is frightening. I see that I need to make careful choices in the future.
Now: I give God the glory for protecting me from this type of man.
- Women have no recourse against powerful men.
Then: What else is new?
Now: We are making progress.
- Women must choose between children and a career.
Now: Women are living life on their terms.
Helen said she wrote A Necessary Woman for “blue-haired ladies in the cocktail hour of life.”
Ironically, blue hair is back in style, but for the young. And I’m feeling more mid-afternoon snack-ish than cocktail hour as far as life point. Still, the fact I have lived more of my life now than I had as a student has softened my viewpoint. I know much about my happily-ever-after. And I can read these books with a different perspective.
What books have you read at different points in your life? Did they age well?
What books would you like to re-read, and why?
Thanks Tamela, I’ll have to give it some thought! The first thing that comes to mind are the many “hit” songs I listened to and the wrong messages they promoted.
Good point! When I was younger, I had no idea about the lifestyles many of the singers were living in the background. I now see that many of yesterday’s lyrics reflect anger, callousness, and confusion. Praise the Lord for music that honors Him!
The books I read so long ago
still ring a distant bell,
and in its peal I’ve come to know
it’s I who’ve not aged well.
The message carried down the years
stays true, and still shines bright,
but for me is dimmed by tears,
and has drifted out of sight.
Perhaps I’ll find again the road,
and my old steps retrace,
put aside time’s heavy load,
and rejoin the joyous race.
There’s much that I would gladly pay
for a quick sunrise to one more day.
Linda Riggs Mayfield
You’re in my morning prayers, Andrew. Thank you for always adding your twist to the topic in a way that makes me see things from a new perspective.
Linda, thank you so much for this lovely affirmation, and especially for your prayers.
What an especially good verse, Andrew!
Tamela, I read Ernest Hemingway as a high school student and much of his hedonism went over my head. Since then I’ve read about the unhappy way his life ended. I’m glad I was from a small town where most people had different values than Hemingway. Apparently I absorbed those values. I had a conversion experience at age 17 and that helped tremendously. But back to the point, I now see Hemingway as a good writer, but a pathetic example of how to live.
Yes, so many of our teachers omitted facts as they assigned literature. Another instance — we were taught of the greatness of the Greek and Roman empires, yet nothing about the sin those civilizations as a whole embraced. On the other hand, I’m not sure there is any other way to teach history to the young. I was sheltered and my eyes were opened late in life to many dark aspects of life, Ms. Van Slyke’s work notwithstanding!
I enjoyed reading the article as it gives me a few more challenge questions to ask students with whom I work. The “truth” statements make a good platform for asking what makes a particular book valid and worthwhile. Is there veracity in the declarations? Why do you believe this is true? Do you see any flaws in this reasoning? What would be a preferable way to understand this topic, issue, etc.? Thank you for the post — must return to review!
Great questions! Thanks for sharing. Your class must be amazing!
I won’t speak to a specific book, but I will say that lately I have been reflecting on a lot of books I read as a child/teenager/young adult to find what drew me to them. Back then it was nothing to read a book several times. I have come to realize that at there core and regardless of the writers spirituality – most books are centered on a spiritual truth – in most cases good versus evil or love overcomes. Growing up I watched westerns on Saturday with my dad, and that was the same thing. I will admit it, the Lone Ranger is still my favorite super hero!
Thanks for the thoughtful article and reminder to consider things from more than one perspective!
As a young teenager in the ’60s the book Christy by Catherine Marshall was the first novel about women’s issues that really impressed me. Recently I skimmed through it again gleaning learning for my own writing. Although it is fiction, it is written like a memoir and is based on the type of things that really happened in that time and place. The writing style is easy to read and captivating.