Author Archives: Melissa Edmondson

To Read It or Not To Read It….

“A good novel tells us the truth about its hero…”
– G. K. Chesterton

There’s a debate in the literary world that most of you have probably heard of in some form or another. A “new” novel by Harper Lee was just released yesterday. It’s called Go Set a Watchman and was apparently written prior to To Kill a Mockingbird.

GSAWNow, depending on which story you hear or believe, the overall gist is that Harper Lee supposedly provided this book to her publishers, and they felt that there was a better story to be told—a story that the world needed to hear. They wanted the same characters that were in her book, mind you, but wanted the story moved back a few years. Altered a bit. Told from the viewpoint of the little girl, “Scout,” instead of the grown woman Jean Louise that is telling us the story in Go Set a Watchman.

Now, before I go any further, I want to give you this disclaimer. I have not read Go Set a Watchman. Not yet. Will I?

Therein lies the question.

Harper Lee is an incredibly private individual. I’m not going to profess to be a Lee scholar by any means, but I do know that she will not give interviews and detested the amount of publicity she received after To Kill a Mockingbird became such a phenomenon. So, why would she allow this publication now?  Ah, therein lies the rub. Did she allow it?

I read one article that stated:

Residents of Monroeville [where Lee now lives] gossip that Ms. Lee is mentally infirm these days, does not recognize old friends, could not possibly have signed off on the publication, never wanted to do a second book. But those who are closest to her scoff at such conspiratorial theories, saying Harper Lee, now 88 and admittedly frail, remains fully capable of making up her own mind.

Quite the fodder for controversy there, huh? Did she or didn’t she?  Is she a frail little 88-year-old woman (now 89, I think) who is being taken advantage of by those who stand to benefit from the profits that this new book will bring in?

Or is she truly what the article I mentioned above says she is?  (Click on the link to check it out if you haven’t already.)  Is she a little old lady who wrote a book long ago – back before the digital age where there would have been copies upon copies of drafts saved on a hard-drive or flash drive somewhere – who truly misplaced the draft?  According to the article, she was delighted when it was found.

I have to interject here for a second while I imagine this scenario to be true. I’m a writer too…obviously not of the caliber of Harper Lee…but a writer nonetheless. And recently, I lost a portfolio full of poetry that I had written over the past ten years. Why were they not saved on a computer somewhere? I don’t know. I just know they were in a folder and I lost them. I was devastated. I searched the house over to no avail…only to find it months later hidden in the back of my closet. I can’t think of another word to describe that feeling other than joyous. All of that work hadn’t been for nothing! My work had been found. Was it any good? I don’t know. A few of them had already failed to win anything in various writing contests I had entered them in, but did I care? No! It was my work and it was found.

Could I have, on some minuscule scale felt what Harper Lee felt when her baby, her novel was found? Did she care that it had once been deemed “not good enough” for publishing? I’m betting not. And when it was suggested to her that it was time to publish it, would she have denied such a suggestion?

Hmmm. I wonder. Some think she would have. And that she did.

But all of that “Did she or did she not want it published?” stuff aside, I think the bigger, truer issue lying behind the controversy is what has been revealed now that reviews have been released. Turns out, Atticus Finch – the protagonist of To Kill a Mockingbird – might have had a darker side.

Now, trust me, I get it. I get the reaction that literary lovers of Atticus are feeling. We LOVE Atticus. Atticus is the true epitome of goodness. He lives in our hearts as a hero, as a true pioneer of equality and justice. But you know what? He isn’t real. Really. He’s not. He’s a product of one author’s imagination…and only after influence from others as to what and who he should be. So, did Harper Lee really create Atticus Finch? Or did we?

Go Set a Watchman was written first.  What that means is that Harper Lee’s original intention was for Atticus Finch to be who he is in this book. Again, I look at this through the eyes of a writer. Do I have the right to tell Miss Lee that the image I have in my head of her character is better than the one she had? Is that my place? Like many others, should I thus refuse to read a book that tarnishes the glow that I put on this beloved man who touched my heart the first time I read this book at the tender age of 18?

I don’t know. But you know what? I don’t think so.

What it comes down to for me is this: there’s a new book out there. It’s a much-talked about book. A much-anticipated book. And a book that’s shrouded in conspiracy. Am I going to read it?

You bet your patootie I am.

Am I doing a disservice to Harper Lee if the rumors are true? Am I reading something that an author intended to keep to herself?  Possibly. But my writer’s heart just somehow knows that an entire novel could not possibly have been written only to keep hidden from readers’ eyes. Look at the history of it…she presented it to publishers years ago. Does that sound like a hidden manuscript?  I just can’t believe it is.

In my heart of hearts, I feel like this is the story that Harper Lee wanted told.

Will my mind change after reading Go Set a Watchman?  Will I wish I had never picked it up? Will I wish that my memories of Atticus Finch remained the way I had him – in all his saintly glory?  Hmm. Who knows?

But I can tell you this…I’m definitely going to give myself the chance to find out.

***

The only way you can truly get to know an author is through the trail of ink he leaves behind him. The person you think you see is only an empty character: truth is always hidden in fiction.”
– Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Silly Kid Quotes: Week 8

“You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.”
― Franklin P. Adams

Silly Kid Quotes: Week 8!

I borrowed a kid for this week’s quote.

This is my good friend Bobbi Jo’s now-7-year-old daughter, Avary.  I adore this kid. I got the chance to babysit her and her brother one week last year and I collected a few funny memories from the experience.  This is one of them.

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Love Thy Neighbor. (Aw man, do I gotta?)

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44

Okay, honest show of hands. Who else has unfriended or un-followed people on Facebook over the past few weeks? Anyone?

Well, I sure have.  *both hands raised high*  And you know why?  Because people are ignorant and that pisses me off.

Okay, so that’s not very lady-like of me, I don’t suppose. Doesn’t exactly go with that whole “turn the other cheek” spirit we’re supposed to have. But dear Lord, I cannot shut up when people are spewing hate and ignorance towards recent current events.  Racism, gay rights…you name it, people are throwing around their opinions about it…swearing that they know all and that the confederate flag should fly high and gays should stay in the closets where they belong. It absolutely infuriates me. So, what do I do?  I jump right in there and tell them how wrong they are.  And do you know what that solves?

Nothing.

10410790_10153491412603707_6179317090721641426_nNot one flippin thing.  In fact, it probably hurts my cause more than helps it. I am doing exactly what they’re doing, just in reverse. I am infuriated at them for being so judgmental and so narrow-minded, and yet I’m being the same way in a sense. I’m exercising my own hatred, it’s just directed at a different group – the ignorant and the narrow-minded.

Now, I’d like to believe that I’m a Christian. I fully believe that Jesus was who he said he was.  I really do. But I don’t believe that we are supposed to adhere to everything the bible tells us to do. I don’t believe that a rape victim should have to marry her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29).   I don’t believe it is shameful for me to cut my hair (1 Corinthians 11:6).  I don’t believe that eating or touching a pig is forbidden by my lord (Leviticus 11:7-8). And I sure as heck fire don’t believe that  a woman is supposed to remain in quiet submission while she is in church (1 Corinthians 14:34).  Heck, just ask my husband – I don’t believe that a women should be in quiet submission anywhere. Ever.

I could go on and on and on with the things in the bible that I don’t believe are still accurate today. I believe that times have changed and that much of what was put in there was just what the writers of the time believed to be the case based on how things were done at the time they were walking the earth. I’m a writer – just about everything I write is tinged with my opinion.  (Ha! “Tinged.” Okay, maybe I need a different word there.) But still – you get the point. I think God wanted some stuff done and we were sucking at it, so I think he sent his son to explain it to us. And I think his son did a fine job of doing that when he told us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31).  In fact, he made it pretty clear that no other commandment was greater than that one.

And what have I been doing?  Failing miserably. I don’t love my neighbors. I hear and see the hateful things that people are saying about people I love and I get mad. I get ANGRY. And do I feel love towards them?  No, I don’t. I think Jesus rocks – and I think he had some seriously good advice, but I’m not him. I just can’t do it. I can’t feel love towards these people who make others feel dirty and worthless, and then use the bible as their weapon in doing so. The God I believe in wouldn’t stand for that for a second, and neither do I.

A woman that I recently did a community theatre play with posted something as her Facebook status one day in the midst of the hatred, and I want to share it with you.  Take a few seconds to read this, won’t you?

I will not “UNFRIEND” those who lack empathy or those who refuse to understand. If I “UNFRIEND” them, then I allow them to retreat deeper into their closets of ignorance. If I “UNFRIEND” them, I offer them greater refuge from the reality of the world around and deprive them of the opportunity to develop sensitivity and demonstrate true love for humanity. No, I will not “UNFRIEND” them. Instead, tidbits and snippets of my life will continue to pop up in their news feeds. I will continue to allow myself to be available should curiosity get the best of them and one day, they decide to try to understand. SOMEDAY; that closet of ignorance might get lonely and they might start to crave the richness of life that comes from connecting across the differences. Don’t get me wrong- this is not a passive surrender because I REFUSE TO LIE DOWN AND ALLOW THEM TO TRAMPLE MY SPIRIT!! I WILL STAND UP AND RISE ABOVE!! I will keep living this GLORIOUS life and do it with BOLDNESS, JOY, and LOVE because that is the true children of God!!
Tiffany Christian

Oh wow. Tiffany, what I wouldn’t give to have your attitude. I try, I really do. But then I backslide all over again. Am I just made of a different caliber of material than others?  Oh, I don’t know. All I can figure is this: I’m human.

That’s it. I’m human. I’m not perfect. And neither is anyone else. None of us have all the answers. We really don’t. Are gay people going to hell?  Heck, I don’t know. Is there a hell? Is there a heaven? Did that first haircut I got back in 1983 seal my spot on the front pew in the pits of hell?  Don’t know that either. NONE OF US KNOW ANYTHING. We really truly don’t.  So why do we go around acting like we do?

Why do I go around acting like I do?

Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know the answer. I really don’t. But I’m pretty sure love is the first place to start looking for it. I have to try to find a way to get this anger and hatred out of my heart because it’s not healthy. I wish we could all just love each other, but there’s nothing I can do to help anyone else with that if I don’t first start with myself.

Anyone care to join me?

It’s a work in progress, friends.  We have to start somewhere.

***

“For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”

– Sun Tzu

I’m Bothered

 “Here are the values that I stand for: honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated, and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values.”
– Ellen DeGeneres
I’m bothered.

Why am I bothered? I’m just a bit confused.

Hear me out while I try to work through this.

Most of you probably know this already, but I proudly grew up in a military environment. For those of you who didn’t have that luxury, let me tell you a bit about one particular aspect of that life – the people.

Whew.  The people.  Buddy, let me tell ya – we were a hodgepodge like you wouldn’t believe. You walk into any military classroom, or take a drive through military base housing and you’re going to see every color of the rainbow. You’re going to see black, white, Hispanic, Asian, and just about everything else you can think of.

But you know what I saw when I looked around those classrooms or rode through my neighborhood growing up?

People.

That’s it. I saw people.

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Giessen High School Class of ’96 – Giessen, Germany

Of course, I wasn’t stupid. I knew we looked different. But I didn’t feel any different from them. I just wasn’t raised that way. Was that a product of good parenting? Sure, mostly. But it was also a product of environment. We were just kids. Just a bunch of kids growing up with pretty much the same lives. Sure, we had other families back “home,” and I’m sure the differences would have been much more pronounced had we followed each other back for family reunions in whatever state we hailed from. But our daily lives didn’t have any of that nonsense.

Now, fast forward to my adulthood. Now, I live in the North Carolina/Virginia area. Bible belt. Southern pride. Sweet tea. You get the picture. It took quite an adjustment to acclimate myself to this new world. Sometimes I still fail at it, I won’t lie. There are parts of it that I just don’t like.

I don’t like the sameness.

It’s everywhere, man. Everywhere you turn, people seem to be similar. Similar in looks, similar in religion and beliefs, etc. This sameness makes me crazy sometimes. I miss my past. I miss my friends. I miss living in an environment where no one felt shunned because they were different.

Now, with that little disclaimer about my past, let me get to what’s bothering me.

I suppose you’ve heard about this whole confederate flag dispute? I know, I know – another thing to fight about….blah, blah, blah. Sheesh. What’s next? Aren’t we tired of controversy?  But yep – sadly, it *is* yet another thing to fight about. And you know why?

Because it deserves a fight.

There’s something I’ve always been a big proponent of, and that is treating others the way they want to be treated. Now, that’s not quite the golden rule. Go back and read that again. I didn’t say treating other people the way I would want to be treated. I said treating them the way they want to be treated.

I LOVE having my head rubbed while I’m trying to fall asleep. I’m like a cat, man, I’ll purr myself into the most peaceful slumber you’ve ever seen if you’re rubbing my head. But my husband, Richard? HATES it. If he’s trying to go to sleep, he wants to be left alone. Same thing when we’re sick. Me? BABY me! Coddle me. Treat me like the princess I am.  Richard? Go away. Shut the door and make no noise until this passes. And as you might could guess, there was a little bit of a learning curve with all of that, but now that we know each other, we know how to treat one another. If he doesn’t want me babying him when he’s sick, I won’t. If I do want him babying me while I’m sick, he will. (Well, sort of…)

hurtingMy point is this: if someone tells you they like something, do it. It’s respect. And more importantly – if someone tells you they don’t like something, then you don’t do it.  That’s how the world should work.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

Back to the confederate flag. It bothers people. It just does. That’s all you need to know. Do you think that flag stands for other things rather than the oppression of an entire race of people – fine. Think that. But guess what you don’t get to do? You don’t get to decide what that flag means to them. You don’t get to decide what it means to me. I do. It means hate. It means separation. It means a very, very misguided pride in something that our white ancestors did that we should be grossly ashamed of. It represents a reminder of a history that this country needs to rise above. Not erase, mind you. We can’t do that. But we can lock it up in the museums along with the Holocaust memorabilia and use it as an example of what not to do in the future. We can use it as a reminder of the atrocities that we have all risen above and moved past. That’s where it belongs. Not flown in our front yards or plastered across our public buildings.

I’m one of the ones who believe strongly in freedom – all freedom. Freedom of speech, religion, etc. But here’s the catch for me, ONLY if it doesn’t hurt others. This flag DOES hurt others. It rubs the past (and unfortunately, as that shooter in South Carolina let us know, the present) into the faces of those who were very deeply hurt by what this flag represents. This should be a country that everyone is free to live in with peace in their hearts. A constant reminder of their oppressions flown proudly throughout the land that is supposed to be their home is not a symbol of peace. And you know how I know that?

Because they told me so.

Why is it so hard to just be on the side of LOVE and ACCEPTANCE?  You know?  We are told that this symbol hurts our fellow Americans, so why do we insist on keeping it around? Why do something that hurts others on purpose?

See why I’m bothered? I just can’t understand people, no matter how hard I try…

***

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Silly Kid Quotes: Week 6

“Children are great imitators. So give them something great to imitate.”
– Anonymous

Ahhhh. This week’s silly kid quote comes from a few years back – a conversation I overheard between my kids while playing on the swings.

The wisdom of the older brother, man. There’s nothing like it.

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