I love to think about, read about, write about all types of people, especially those who are different. I guess that’s why I wrote my debut book, CRAZY (I know, I know, why don’t I shut up about it already, right?). Last week I talked about Cynthia Lord’s character, Catherine, who was actually, in my way of thinking, the “different one” in the book, RULES. She was exceptionally compassionate towards both a disabled brother and a friend with a disability. She had wisdom beyond her years.
A long while back I reviewed a favorite book featuring one of the most radical nonconformists in young adult fiction, Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli. (I’m repeating it here because I recently reread it, still love it, and happen to be traveling out of the country at this moment!) Her real name was Susan Caroway, but one of the many names she created for herself was Stargirl, because “I didn’t feel like Susan anymore.” She arrived at unspectacular Mica High with an array of long hippie-like skirts, accompanied by her pet rat and a ukulele for singing happy birthday without an invitation to anyone and everyone.
Put off at first, the students began to warm up to her random acts of kindness and her infectious enthusiasm. Largely due to her cheer-leading charisma, bottom-ranked Mica High was headed for the basketball championship for the first time in years when things fell apart. Stargirl not only cheered for both teams at games (“I root for everybody”), but when a star opponent became injured, she rushed onto the court to help him. Overnight the entire student body turned against her. They shunned her. There was no turning back, even when Stargirl made a brief and painful attempt to look, act, and sound just like “them.”
While Spinelli doesn’t sell himself as a Christian writer, returning an angry slap in the face from a jealous cheerleader with a kiss on the cheek is right out of the New Testament. If you don’t go with the Christian theme, you might be tempted to swing to a psychological angle, wondering why Stargirl didn’t have a total and complete mental collapse, so unpredictably, out-of-this world crazy she seems. I’ll leave it up to you to decide what Spinelli had in mind when he wrote this book. My take is that he was celebrating radical individualism at its very best, and recognizing that it is a rarity in this age when going along with the crowd takes the least effort and commitment.
The takeaway message from this book? Be who you are. Don’t let “them” ever stop you or try to remake you into someone you are not. No matter where or who we are in this life, I think the old adage is true: To thine own self be true. As a writer I wonder, how willing am I to step out there and be so different, so innovative, so creative beyond imagination, so other-directed that my own sense of normalcy becomes significantly redefined?
Radical individualism. No matter your walk in life, I’d love to hear your take on this concept.
Hey READERS, I would love to hear from you.
Is your MIND FULL of old thoughts or new?