Yesterday I got three giant boxes full of books. A man rolled them out to my van on a dolly and hefted them in the back (moving a few misplaced markers first – I’m just glad there weren’t any dirty socks or gross food wrappers).
He then pulled out his razor blade and opened one of the boxes, reaching in and pulling out a copy of A Cup of Dust for me.
“It’s a beautiful cover,” he said.
I stood there, my van door agape and the man with the dolly and razor blade beside me. It was the first real look at Pearl’s story.
I didn’t cry. I wanted to, but the man was so kind I thought he might worry about me if I curled up on the pavement and wept for joy.
I did pet the cover, though. It’s one of the smooth, matte finished covers that I love so very much.
This story is special. They all are. But this one feels special in a bit of a different way. And it’s all because of Pearl.
But Pearl Spence is a bit different. She’s spunky the way I wished I could have been as a kid. Adventurous, curious, brave. She’s strong in the way that most Depression Era kids were, particularly those who grew up in the Dust Bowl region.
When I look at pictures of the Dust Bowl and look into the eyes of the children, I see something a little different. (Especially the photography of Dorothea Lange who has always been an inspiration for my writing…and, yes, Dot in Paint Chips was named for her)
Those kids look already-grown-up if you just look at their eyes. They’ve got a strength, determination, grit. There was no victim in them, only surviver.
I know that Pearl is a fictional character, but she’s my attempt to point to those remarkably brave kids who faced down the dust, not willing to let it beat them. She’s a tribute to the courage of anyone from any era who won’t allow adversity to be their end, but use it to refine them, strengthen them.
Through writing Pearl, I came to firmly believe that where you come from isn’t who you are.
And I can’t wait for you to meet her.