The power of Google tells me today is the anniversary of Louisa May Alcott’s birth 184 years ago on November 29, 1832.
No, not really.
I can’t say I’m a fan of Louisa May’s work. I know her work is beloved by generation upon generation of readers and is a staple of the American educational literature canon.
Not for me.
In the 8th-grade, I ventured a few pages into the assigned LITTLE WOMEN and dove headfirst off the LMA train traveling on a steep, narrow mountain pass inhabited by rabid grizzly bears.
LITTLE WOMEN was directly responsible for my first, but not my only, academic career emergency. Well, let me back up. LITTLE WOMEN + Ms. Teacher-Who-Did-Not-Care-For-Me-For-Some-Reason almost resulted in this stubborn, young man flunking 8th-grade English class.
I was a struggling reader growing up. I still read pretty slow. If fact, I probably would have completely taken the life path of non-reader if not been fortunate to have adults who helped me trudge along the reading path or have found Jack London’s short story, To Build A Fire, in 6th-grade. I would have given up.
In 8th-grade, said Teacher assigned the entire class LITTLE WOMEN. I read a little bit. I decided it was stupid. I refused to read any more of it. Too many girls, not enough struggle against the elements on the Yukon.
Our school split a grade into the classic 1970’s leveled system. I was the dumbest kid in the smart group. I ain’t lying. Every day, I was scratching and clawing while the others floated casually down the academic river of knowledge sipping fruity drinks and eating exotic cheeses. Frustrating. Character building. I’m sure this contributed to my stubborn streak.
Said Teacher told me to read. I replied in the negative.
Said Teacher called my parents. Said Teacher met with my parents and said I would flunk. I did not care.
Said Teacher compromised with my parents. She would LET me read LITTLE MEN. Mom was happy. Dad was happy. I took one look at the cover illustration, flipped quickly through the pages and gave it back to Said Teacher. I wasn’t falling for that one. The old bait and switch. Listen, I had two ornery older brothers, I knew a con game when I saw one. LITTLE MEN was just LITTLE WOMEN in different clothes. Nice try, LMA. But, nope.
So I didn’t read either of the books. I failed the section. I scrambled the rest of the year to keep my head afloat. And I survived.
Civil disobedience. An important skill to have.
I often wonder if Said Teacher ever looked at me and dreamed I would be both an avid reader and writer of books.
I highly doubt it. She saw a shy, stocky, sports-crazed boy and that is all she allowed herself to see.
But I am a writer and a reader.
And I am damn proud of it.
Sorry, Louisa May and Louisa May fans. Have a great birthday anniversary celebration. Eat, drink, and be merry.
Just don’t expect me to read LITTLE WOMEN.