I will forever be grateful to my sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Ackley, for reading Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time” to my class. I couldn’t wait until the 15 minutes or so each day that she would read about Meg Murry, her smart little brother Charles Wallace who was “new,” and their friend Calvin’s travels through space and time to fight the evil IT.
“A Wrinkle in Time” was the book that made me love books. It was the book that made feeling like I didn’t fit in bearable. Meg didn’t fit in, but she was smart and strong, although she certainly wasn’t perfect. In the beginning of the book, she hates herself because she doesn’t fit in. By the end of her journey, she realizes that maybe she doesn’t want to be like everyone else and it’s okay to not fit in. That was a powerful concept that I was able to begin to accept because of L’Engle’s book.
I’ve read “A Wrinkle in Time” almost yearly since I was 12. Last year, I read it twice — once by myself over the summer and once with my 9-year-old son for a book report. We took turns reading it out loud to each other, and I had to stop myself from pointing out the passages that I find particularly inspiring. Nothing can ruin a good story like mom pointing out the lessons she thinks her kid should learn from it.
There is a lot for a kid (or an adult — it’s one of those books that can be appreciated by both) to take away from “A Wrinkle in Time.” I could write a bulleted list of the lessons in the book, but I’m most sure that Madeleine L’Engle wouldn’t like me telling others what they should learn from her writing. And, I learned from conversations with my son after we read it that he saw things in the book that I never have.
There is one take-away from the book that has so shaped who I am and why I do the things I do that I want to share it with you. Meg is told by the character Mrs Whatsit, “We can’t take any credit for our own talents. It’s how we use them that counts.”
I’ve had more than 30 years to think about that. I’ve often wished that I had a talent for drawing or painting or some other fine art. I don’t. I can write, though, but I realize that my talent for writing is no more of my doing than my lack of talent for drawing.
What I do with my talent — honing it, using it for good, donating it when I can, writing about things that matter — is up to me. Using my writing to encourage others to eat healthier, educate them about how what they choose to eat affects the environment and inform them about what’s going on in the world of food is one way I chose to use this talent, but I can take no credit for it.
I have to wonder if Mrs. Ackley hadn’t read us “A Wrinkle in Time” if I’d be doing what I do today. Who knows? I do know that it’s played an important part in shaping the way I, and several generations of readers, think.
I’m certainly not the only one recognizing the book’s 50th birthday. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, the publisher that took a chance on “A Wrinkle in Time” in 1962 after 26 other publishers rejected it, is releasing a 50th anniversary edition on Jan. 31. Over the weekend, The New York Times ran a piece praising L’Engle and her heroine Meg Murry who was "a departure from the typical 'girls’ book' protagonist.” And, a special celebration will be held in New York City on Feb. 11 at the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre at Symphony Space.
Do you have a book that’s meant as much to you as “A Wrinkle in Time” has meant to me?
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