Goooooood Morning Readers!!!
Day Two of my Birthday Week is all about The List by Patricia Forde, which happens to publish TODAY!!! While it is a middle grade book, yes I am a grown woman reading middle grade books, the concept of language and its importance in society is so profound, abstract, and intense, that The List does a great job of getting younger readers into that critical thinking space; hopefully it starts a discussion that never ends.
A quick synopsis...
In the city of Ark, speech is constrained to five hundred sanctioned words. Speak outside the approved lexicon and face banishment. The exceptions are the Wordsmith and his apprentice Letta, the keepers and archivists of all language in their post-apocalyptic, neo-medieval world. On the death of her master, Letta is suddenly promoted to Wordsmith, charged with collecting and saving words. But when she uncovers a sinister plan to suppress language and rob Ark's citizens of their power of speech, she realizes that it's up to her to save not only words, but culture itself. (Thanks Goodreads!)
Let that sink in for a moment. THIS GIRL IS RESPONSIBLE FOR SAVING LANGUAGE! Throughout history the right to speech, the access to speech, the very nature of speech, has been the stuff of wars! Cultures have lived and thrived based on their means of communication. And we have ALL been that person using primitive sign language and interpretive dance to find out where the bathroom is.
As I was reading The List I found myself having to wonder why the importance of language has never really been brought up in my circle. We're avid readers, intellectuals, and most of my friends are artists of some form, heck I'm married to a poet who proposed via poem. When I wrote my wedding vows, even when I write these blogs I subconsciously pick and choose the vernacular I use, the dialect and tone, even the syntax of a sentence to best convey the message I have.
Forde does a great job of blending some time periods and genres, this book is futuristic and medieval at the same time, and she does a good job giving us characters to root for. There are some plot issues, and one or two holes you can skirt around, but I think the biggest asset to this novel is Letta. The maturity she exhibits, as well as the urgency of her position aren't to be taken lightly. However there is the good risk that a lot of this book is going to be glanced over, or not even considered. "Everything is a risk. Life is a risk. We have to be what we are. Our souls are not like the soul of a fox. Hour hearts are not like the heart of a sparrow." - Marlo pg 86
The relationships in this book are bitter sweet, and the undying allegiance can be frightening to an over thinking adult like myself, but read The List, and ask yourself why language matters. I asked some of my friends, and their answers surprised me.
"Let's eat kids! Let's eat, kids! Punctuation saves lives." -B. Scott (Can you tell he's a teacher?)
"The written word lets you say what cannot be spoken." E. Savageau
"Language allows sharing and fosters relationships and (I hope) cooperation. It is how ideas spread." - L. Meyers
"The way we speak effects, and is effected by the way we think. It is expression but it is also neural programming." A. Estes
"We are all here because we believe in the power of communication based on love and trust." B. McBroom quoting the #WhyISign campaign.
"Language is important because it has the potential to open doors and close them. It can mean the difference between access or restriction in a modern, global, and competitive market." S. Bilquist
(Seriously, I know some great teachers!)
"Language conventions provide the order and scaffold that allows for common understanding." S. Carpenter (See... GREAT teachers!)
Personally, I find that language is what finds us loved, freed, understood, and what gives us hope. If I can express to you my ambition, excitement, joy and love, language is what lets you understand me. I could go on forever about cultures and their languages, how some cultures don't have the same words for the same things, how some have words for emotions that can't be described any other way, but for now I'll leave you with this, language matters.
Until next time....