Before the Vermont College residency (about which more shortly) I got to spend a couple of wonderful days with Jamila Gavin, with whom I've corresponded for a little over four years now. Jamila was in the US last month to lead a residency at Hollins University's MFA program in Roanoke VA.
We had many conversations about reading, writing, life, the universe, and everything. Among other things, Jamila asked if I'd ever read Rumer Godden. Indeed I had. Rumer Godden's The River was the first book I ever read that was set in India and written in a way that did not patronize me. It was an astonishing reading experience. I read it all the way through once, and then again. Even though the viewpoint wasn't close to my own, I was surprised that the story didn't feel "long ago and faraway." Having been put in my "native" place a little while before by The Secret Garden, I had no idea anyone was even allowed to write in this way, very honestly and without a message of power belonging to one group rather than another. I was 13 years old, and The River unlocked a place in me I hadn't known existed.
In a way Rumer Godden gave me permission to write.