Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Banned Books and Birthdays or the Search for a Life of Meaning

by Julianna Baggott

People born on or around September 30th are usually the offspring of over-served, randy New Year's Eve party guests. Do the math.

And so here I am. Today is my birthday. And not just a small birthday -- like twenty-seven. No. Today is my 40th birthday, which sounds mathematically impossible. When people say that an event took place in, say, '89 and then add something horrific like, "twenty years ago," I get kind of go weak in the knees. 1989 was TWENTY years ago?

Last night someone asked me if I was reflecting at this point in time. I am. I don't want to have a midlife crisis -- I have no appreciation for very cool cars and no desire to date younger men (or older men or etc ...)

Unfortunately, I want to live a life of meaning.

The meaning of life? Eh. I'm not that lofty.

But a life of meaning? Yes. That sounds like a good thing. I just don't happen to know what it is.

This winter I'll publish my 15th book -- The Ever Cure (Random House) -- a novel for younger readers. This summer I'll publish my 16th book -- The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted (Bantam Dell/Random House).

I have four kids -- aged 14 to two.

I'm in love with my husband.

These things are all part of a life of meaning -- yes. I don't deny that.

But still...

This week I had a piece in the Boston Globe -- an op ed on a principal who called me up a week before my scheduled visit to tell me that she couldn't send out book orders before my visit because she didn't want to give parents the impression that the school was endorsing the "objectionable material" in my "book."

I had no idea what book she was talking about and had never had my work called "objectionable." She seemed surprised by the fact that I had written more than one and that I didn't have a ready-made list of my objectionable material. She provided this.

A difficult pregnancy -- which would be THE ANYBODIES -- and the use of the 'n word' in THE PRINCE OF FENWAY PARK, which is a book about racial tolerance with some historically relevant parts to it. The book provides an author's note on my use of the word.

She confessed that she was afraid of angry parents, and that hers had been one of the districts to opt out of Obama's address to school children.

If Obama's uplifting study-hard speech was worthy of censorship, now what isn't?

There's more to the story ... Here's the link:

There's been some rousing debate since, people taking both sides.

Does this seem like I'm inching closer toward a life of meaning? Is this what people with meaningful lives do?

Last night I went out with friends -- three amazing women. One who's just come back from a battle with cancer, a brilliant novelist, Sheila Curran; one who's just started her PhD in her early forties with two kids and is still working as a social worker in one of the poorest counties in the state; one is an innovative media specialist in a Title I school who'd just gotten a grant to start an after-school running program for the girls in her school. She has two kids -- one of which she and her husband adopted from Ethiopia.

I see each of them as living lives of meaning.

But, for some reason, I can't quite see it in my own. (As an writer alone, am I writing the work I SHOULD be writing? Am I just killing trees out there? Some days it seems so.)

And so I have an inkling of what my 40s might look like.

I will want to be a better person, and I will fall short -- by my own estimations. And I will then come to terms, somehow, hopefully before I hit 50 with this and accept myself -- my longing, my fight, my shortcomings. Even my harsh view of myself will be accepted.

Frankly, I was raised better than all of this earnest bullshit. People born on and around my birthday often are. Our folks tend to be the ones who know how to kick it up, who understand drunken desire, the importance of revelry, who've had sex with their party hats still on! And, really, when it comes to us human beings and our humanity, there's plenty of meaning in that.

For more on blogs from Baggott & her pen name Bridget Asher, click here.

1 comment:

Mrs. Id said...

Um... excuse me? Are you serious? Have you read anything you've ever written? How about your essays? How about these blog posts?

I can see how being someone as awesomely clever and accomplished as yourself might leave one a little jaded; you make it look easy but you are one who lights the way. You don't need to get cancer to have a life of meaning. Meaning what?

Happy birthday, hope it's wonderful even if it's just a Wednesday. Here's to surprising yourself in your forties!