Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Meaning of a Single Word?

Copyright © 2013 Keta Diablo
Originally published by 1st Turning Point
I’m sure you all know that sultry means to be hot with passion or to be capable of exciting strong sexual desire. But sultry can also mean sweltering or torrid.
Have you ever heard a word that reminds you of a certain time and place, almost like Déjà vu? Whenever I hear the word sultry it reminds of only one thing–the novel To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I know that sounds odd because most of the time sultry would remind one of hot passion or conjure an image of Marilyn Monroe standing over an air vent on the sidewalk with her short skirt billowing about her.
Not me. When I hear the word “sultry” I’m taken on a journey back to my childhood, seventh grade to be exact. That year, my teacher placed a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird on my desk with a simple note, “Keta, read this. I hope it opens many doors for you.”
Now, years later, I wonder if I’ve done Ms. Lee proud. By word of mouth and my love for To Kill A Mockingbird, have I sold a few copies for her? We know all about the power of testimonials, the far-reaching effects of passing on vivid details about our most recent read, right? I hope we never forget the magic formula — you know, you tell five people about your great read and they tell five people, and so on and so on.
Back in the seventh grade, I thought it strange that Miss Holmquist would place a book on my desk, but then she was a rather over-the-top character. (Picture a short, stout woman with the shadow of a mustache whose flabby upper arms jiggled when she worked the chalkboard). Yet, the woman had piqued my interest with her subtle message. How could books open doors? Why did I want to read about an old lawyer in a southern state I knew nothing about? And, what’s more, what kind of a man would name his children Jem and Scout?
I took the book home, and several days passed before I opened it and read the first line, “When he was thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.” Hmm, this Ms. Harper Lee, whoever she is, has my attention now,” I thought. Who is Jem and how did he break his arm?
From that moment on I was hooked–mesmerized over the story, in awe over the character names, Boo Radley, Aunt Avery, Dill, Atticus, Calpurnia, and even the white girl who was supposedly raped, Mayella. And I’m still in awe of the plot, the personalities, and the vivid neighborhood descriptions.
So, why does the word sultry remind me of To Kill A Mockingbird? Because for the first time in my life I realized that by simply turning the pages, I could feel the sultry heat, taste the prejudice and agonize over the hatred between black and white.
“So what did you discover in this book?” Miss Holmquist asked me two weeks later. I didn’t know where to begin. Should I tell her about the rollercoaster of emotions I went through reading it? Do I dare ask her why the jury convicted Tom even though I prayed they wouldn’t? Or maybe I should tell her how brave Scout was when she diffused an explosive situation between Atticus and the old-timers of the town with a simple, “Hey there, Mr. Ewell, how’s your boy, Henry doing?”
I didn’t ask her any of those things, but I did tell her about every sentiment I felt. Mostly I told her about the bitter taste in my mouth over a word called prejudice, and I told her I felt the hot, sultry sun of Maycomb County.
Some days, I wish I could go back to seventh grade and ask Miss Holmquist if she knew that one day To Kill A Mockingbird would be one of the best-loved stories of all time, that it would earn many distinctions since its original publication in 1960. I’d ask her if she thought it would win the Pulitzer Prize one day and be translated into more than forty languages. And Miss Holmquist, do you think it will sell more than thirty million copies worldwide, and will it be made into an enormously popular movie?
You know, I think Miss Holmquist would have said, “Yes, I do think Miss Lee’s novel will achieve all those things and more, but the most important thing, Keta, To Kill A Mockingbird will transport you to the sultry heat of the deep south and will take you to places you never dreamed existed.”
And I would say, “Thank you, Miss Holmquist, thank you.”

Paranormal/Raven Shifter
* Nominated for Bookie Award by Authors After Dark.
* Nominated for Best Romance of the Year
* Book of the Month – Black Raven’s Café
* Top Recommended Read – 3 Professional review sites

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