Merry Wanderer of the Night  + [YA]

Memory Monday — Meet Mindy!!

Hi Everyone,

My name is Mindy Hardwick, and I’m happy to be guest blogging today on my favorite young adult book—Homecoming. I am both a published children's writer and educator. Some of my stories and articles have been published with The Washington State History Museum’s on-line magazine, ColumbiaKids including: a middle grade story, “Tales of the Lighthouse Keeper,” and articles about Rachel the Pike Market Pig, and the Fremont Troll. I run a weekly poetry workshop with youth in a juvenile detention center in Everett, WA. You can read some of the youth’s poems at www.denneypoetry.com. You can also find a couple of my flash fiction pieces, Directions and Night Crimes, which were inspired by the detainees, on Sarah LaPolla’s blog, Glass Cases. I keep a blog at www.mindyhardwick.com

I first read Homecoming in my sixth grade reading class. When I reread the book for this post, I took a quick look at the copyright date. My sixth grade year would have been the year the book was published!

In middle school, I was lucky to have both a language arts class and a reading class. Our reading teacher, Mr Stobie, dedicated the entire hour to reading. He filled the room with young adult novels, which at that time, would have been the problem novels of the 80’s. (Young adult novels which focused on a character who was usually trying to deal with an issue such as death in Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume). In sixth grade, we spent our class time reading and journaling about young adult novels. I thought this was Heaven! I didn’t have to worry about reading under the covers with a flashlight, now I could tell Mom and Dad that I was doing homework! Later, when I became a seventh grade language arts teacher myself, I used this same classroom teaching style.

Ironically, at the same time I started teaching, my collection of young adult novels resurfaced at my Mom’s house. She even found the same yellow bookcase where the books had always been stored. I was amazed to see that the books had survived moves across the country as well as decades of being stored in boxes. I unpacked the books and used them to set up my classroom library. And of course, the first book, I found was Homecoming.

Over the years, I’d seen copies of Homecoming at the bookstore, and the cover had changed from the one I remembered. At one point, I attended a library book sale to buy books for the classroom library. That day, I found a copy of Homecoming with the same cover that I remembered. I purchased the book, and never loaned that copy out to students!

When I began taking writing classes, we often studied first lines of novels. But, to me, no first line ever came close to the line in Homecoming: “The woman put her sad moon — face in at the window of the car.” And even though I studied many young adult novels during my coursework in Vermont College’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adult program, Homecoming still remained my favorite book. I discovered that there was something about Homecoming which had never left me. Something about Dicey’s character that had grabbed me and continued to hold onto me. Maybe it was the way she so carefully dolled out money for each meal, buying apples and a loaf of bread for 88 cents, or maybe it was all those hot, dusty miles they walked along strip malls on their way to Bridgeport. But, a few years later, when I started writing my own young adult novel, Dicey’s story crept into mine. My character, Jasmine, had also been abandoned by a parent, and just like Dicey, Jasmine goes to live with an extended family member. As Dicey does in the second Tillerman series, Dicey's Song, my character Jasmine must also create a new life for herself. Later, I realized I even named one of my secondary characters, Sammy, and that was the same name as Dicey’s younger brother.

As a writer, I can look at Homecoming and see so many qualities which I try to mirror in my own work: A main character with a strong want and motive. Secondary characters that are just as complex as the main character. Description which is so neatly woven into each scene. A plot which keeps me turning the page.

But as both a reader and writer, I think what strikes me the most about Homecoming is Dicey’s determination to get her family to a safe home. It is Dicey’s determination, all these years later, still inspires me in my own life and reminds me not to give up. Dicey’s story reminds me to keep walking across the endless, hot concrete sidewalks and to keep dolling out that money for bread and peanut butter until I reach that end destination and find “home”. __________________________________________ Thank you so much Mindy! What a wonderful post! Homecoming and the whole Tillerman Saga were really life changing books for me. I loved the whole series and I love hearing what you remember about them! Dicey really is a truly amazing character! Thank you again for participating! Also — to the rest of my readers out there — If you would like to be a Memory Monday guest, in my blog for more information or send me an email! I'd love to have you!