I've been a lover of handwriting since I was small. My brother's college girlfriend wrote the 8 year old me letters and in addition to coveting her big girl Levi's, I thought she had terrific handwriting. So at 8 years old, I tried to copy her really good handwriting and in my 8 year old brain, it was the best thing that had ever happened to me, this new vision of me as a child with terrific handwriting.
Then I started writing letters to everyone. My grandmother, my school chums, my pen-pal obtained from PBS's Big Blue Marble. I began to keep a journal for my "memoirs", a silk covered red-lined diary from Chinatown. After diving deep into all seven books of The Adventures of the Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald and illustrated by Mercer Mayer, I was inspired that I should record my every move. A bit later on, my much older brother gave me a little blue plastic typewriter after joining me in reading I Trissy by Norma Mazer. What kind of brother joins his little sister in reading a YA book about a girl figuring out her new life after her parents divorced and her mom got a new boyfriend? A pretty good one! We loved that book and still quote it to this day.
I also loved magazines designed just for kids. Getting mail was exciting, but getting a magazine in the mail was like "WHAT? A message from the outside world!" Aside from letters from pen pals, or letters from anyone, I loved my monthly copy of Dynamite Magazine. I created a Dynamite Club, that's how much I loved Dynamite Magazine. It included me, Debbie Stein as President and my imaginary friend named "Magic" who I bossed around. Later, my neighbor who moved to my neighborhood from Brooklyn became Treasurer and the clubhouse was under the ping pong table in her family room no one used. Much later in high school, I found out she made out with the kid I had a crush on and I learned that nothing is sacred, particularly an unrequited crush, and I'm sure she was embezzling from the Dynamite Fund for Pez Dispensers anyway.
I wish this rad quarterly, Bravery was around when I was a child though, no corporate backing, it's about promoting equality and belief in oneself and one's ideas with stories of the lives and trajectories of amazing women, one to an issue. I recommend subscribing as an adult. Its gorgeous.
But seriously, can we ago back to books for a minute? I just realized I had a strange love of books about divorce and orphans, books set in boarding schools where parents had sent their unwilling children who were always getting in trouble, books about kids from different backgrounds who found themselves as runaways, and books about surfing gangs in California fighting each other for turf (I may be making that last part up.) After I outgrew all the Judy Blume books, I found a book called The Fog Comes On Little Pig Feet which was amongst my favorites re: books for neglected kids whose parents were too tired to take care of their troubled pre-teens or maybe still couldn't get over the idea they had to raise kids at all. (Insert names of your therapists here). I cherished Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor and checked it out of the library over and over. That book depicted a particular cruelty that shocked me, but it also depicted a particular goodness; a strength in parenting with a stern love I had never seen personified at 8 years old. It dove into a history that wasn't mine and the empathy I felt for the first time in my young life changed my course and ways of thinking. I recently listened to Taylor's books again on Audible and believe more than ever in the power of children's literature to transform young minds and encourage empathy, something that seems in short supply these days.
Which books and magazines did you love as a child? How do you think it led you to what you love and believe in now?