Friday, August 29, 2008
I found this five leaf clover while weeding the other day. Sadly, Google reveals that opinion is divided as to its luckiness. Some people claim it is extra-lucky, others that it is unlucky. It is, at the very least ,unusual, so I've carefully pressed it in a book. Even a skeptic like me can't turn away luck (however iffy) if it sprouts in my own backyard!
Thursday, August 28, 2008
This is the best of the City of
Now I have never written to an author that I was unacquainted with before. No idea why I did this time. Perhaps because it’s day two of the kids being back at school, and I have no excuses left for not actually getting back to writing (stuff I can sell, that is) and so I have to get creative about said avoidance of writing.
[Stacks of THE DIAMOND OF DARKHOLD at New England Mobile Book Fair, my favorite bookstore.]
Anyhow, in case you are in any doubt about the awesomeness of Jeanne DuPrau, here is our correspondence of today.
to Jeanne DuPra
Dear Ms. DuPrau,
My kids and I have read and enjoyed all the Ember books, including the Diamond of Darkhold. We were looking at the trailer for the upcoming City of
I could be wrong (I hope I am) but most of the characters are white, correct? There was a brown baby in the letter Lina and Doon found on their way out in the City of Ember, but I can't recall any major (or minor) characters of color.
I can understand why the People of Sparks would be homogeneous, but the Emberites were specifically selected by the Builders to be the last survivors of the Human Race. Would they not have picked people of all races? Or at least all races in the proportion they were present in their own population, the
Ms. DuPrau, I love the City of
I'm going to re-read the City of
(Indian-American, and Mom to
Dear Ms. Bajpai,
You are among the few people who have asked me this question, and I've been surprised it hasn't been asked more often. I did think about racial diversity when I wrote the book--as you correctly remember, I mentioned a brown baby as one of the original Ember inhabitants, and I meant to imply that there were others. I did not address the question of race in the book directly, it's true, but what I imagined was that the Builders chose people of all races for Ember's settlers, and that after 240 years, most people were mixtures. (They would probably have tended to be pale, too, from living in the dark all that time!)
But I have to plead guilty to the white-as-default mindset, so I need and appreciate criticisms like yours. When I write for children, I know that my own time as a child reader is at the back of my mind, along with the influence of the books I read then--more than fifty years ago! Comments like yours will remind me to keep my consciousness updated.
Very best wishes to you and
Dear Ms. DuPrau,
Thank you for your prompt and thoughtful response. Your explanation is perfectly reasonable, and led to many lively discussions during the ride back from school today, about whether the Builders should have provided tubes of sun-screen for the Emberites when they re-surfaced, or doses of Vitamin-D during their time below ground. We all wish you continued success with your excellent books, and look forward to many more!
> doses of Vitamin-D during their time below ground.
They did! Remember the vitamins Lina takes at breakfast time?
End of correspondence.
Now does she rock or what?
Monday, August 18, 2008
Trip # 1 was to
Trip #3 was to the Hatch Shell for India Day. This was the kids’ favorite trip, even better than
And, was it just me or was the crowd at India Day younger, hipper and way bigger this year?
Friday, August 15, 2008
Twice ten cowry shells are a kakani; four of these are a pana; sixteen of which must be here considered a drama; and in like manner, a nishka, as consisting of sixteen of these.
Verse 2 of THE LEELAVATI, by Bhaskara the teacher
1136 AD India
“You must delay the birth,” the young man insisted. “The stars are inauspicious. The shadow of Mars and Saturn will fall upon the baby if it is born now.”
Three bull drawn chariots were stopped by the dusty road. There was no sign of human habitation anywhere in the sweeping red plateau that surrounded them. There would be no help for the woman, the girl really; whose cries rent the evening calm. Except for the old mid-wife, the only one of the party that had ever seen childbirth.
“I cannot,” the mid-wife said. “And I would not, even if it were in my power, for it would endanger them both. Auspicious or not, it is the child’s time to be born. Now leave us, and prepare to be a father.”
CHAPTER ONE – THE TRADING FLEET
Dear intelligent Leelavati, if thou be skilled in addition and subtraction, tell me the sum of two, five, thirty-two, a hundred and ninety-three, eighteen, ten, and a hundred, added together; and the remainder, when their sum is subtracted from ten thousand.
Verse 13 of THE LEELAVATI, by Bhaskara the teacher
1150 AD Bharuch, India
I was born under an unlucky star.
Appa knew that dark forces clouded the moment, for no one in the world studied the stars as well as he did. But he kept it from me for many years. I was fourteen, almost a woman, when I discovered it, and old enough to understand what such a horoscope meant.
“No one will marry me,” I said to Amma as she combed my long dark hair that she had massaged with perfumed jasmine oil. Amma’s hand faltered for a moment and then continued firmly with its rhythmic strokes.
“Nonsense,” she said. “Why, we’ve had to turn down so many offers already.”
“But that’s because they don’t know that Mars rules the 7th house in my star chart,” I pointed out. Amma put down the comb and started to braid. The firm pressure of her hands twisting my hair was steady but the tremble that crept into her voice belied them.
“Listen to me,” she said, “if anyone can find the right match, the right time, to counteract the evil influence of Mars, your Appa can.”
I stretched my arms, aching from the long journey to Grandmother's, the same journey that Amma had made fourteen years ago when I interrupted it with my unplanned arrival. It felt nice to wash away the unavoidable dust and smells of travel. I wish it was as easy to wash away the secret I had learned this time along the way.
"I’m not worried," I said, truthfully. It made no sense but inspite of the shadow that fell upon my future some of what I felt was relief. I was in no hurry to leave my parents home for any marriage.
Friday, August 8, 2008
It was time. The massive banyan tree felt it in every leaf, branch and tangled vine. It was time. But still, there was no sign of the book.
Could the old master have been wrong?
“When the book is needed,” the master had said. “It will be found.”
But a thousand years had passed. The old tree's roots had grown deeper into the silt washed down from the Himalayas by the Ganges. Hanging roots had thickened and spread so that instead of one there were now hundreds of trunks.
The village still nestled into a bend of the river as it meandered through the northern plains. There were still birds and monkeys that swung and sang in the forest the tree had become. Village women in bright saris still came to light butter lamps in the grove, and give thanks for the rains that never failed, the wars that passed them by, the diseases that didn't harm their children. No, life had not changed in this remote, forgotten, place.
But subtle signs in the air and water and soil told the tree it was time. The stories drifting in with the wind said it was time. The language of life echoed that it was time.
The children had been born again and had grown strong, far away from this, their native land. They were the chosen ones, and it was time.
Still, the copper vessel containing the book, hidden by them in another life, when they lived here, in the village by the banyan tree, stayed buried.
But the tree had faith.
“When the book is needed,” the master had said. “It will be found.”
So, when the farmer and his pair of bulls stopped their plowing in the middle of the field, the tree knew. When the farmer dug into the rich soil and pulled the obstacle they had encountered in the field, it knew. When the farmer wiped away the dirt to reveal the vessel and lifted the old fragile palm leaf document from it, the tree knew.
It was time to sound the alarm.
The tree had waited centuries for this, but the networks of tree stands and forests, of wandering singers in the oceans of water and air, once plentiful, had diminished. Were there enough to carry the news to the masters?
The ancient guardian gathered its powers and flung into the world a message as silent as it was strong. Others took up the message and passed it on, and on, and on. As the message swept urgently across land and sea, somewhere in the world an orange cat froze mid-pounce, a guide dog pricked up her ears, a man braked in traffic, an iguana blinked. For only a few beings remained that knew the bundle of palm leaves for what it was.
The most powerful object on Earth --the Jiva Sutra-- the Book of Life.
CHAPTER ONE – THE FASTING CAT
A week later, Natick, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Rishi pulled the hood of his sweatshirt up against the light April rain. The two dogs he was walking stayed close to his heels, noses to the damp ground. They were used to his pace.
Not many 11 year olds could walk two full grown huskies, but Rishi was not an ordinary 11 year old. Not when it came to animals. That’s why even with 98.5 Boston’s sports channel piping into his ears from his battered mp3 player slash radio, he knew from the way Tundra tensed and started a growl low in his throat that something was wrong.
“What is it, boy?” He popped the ear buds from his head and slowed to a walk. But the answer was clear to see.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Monday, August 4, 2008
My Mum is the main reason I finished my ms while I was down under. I could just sit in my pjs, ignore my kids, and things like breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and just write.
The kids had so much fun (in spite of, ... or maybe because of, my ignoring them) because of all the Aunties and Uncles and cousins they were surrounded with. I'll treasure the picture of all the cousins in their matching Cape Cod hoodies (Yes, hoodies! It's winter there people!).
I'll even miss Goldy - my sister Ruhi's old car, that I drove around for two months in Brisbane - without incident, I might add, even though left is right in OZ :-)
In my bag, headed for the Post Office.