It’s been awhile since I’ve written about books. I’m not reading as much as used to. I’m still keeping up with our book club here at the continuum care campus but that only requires that I polish off one book a month. Some of our recent reads have been: Everyone Brave is Forgiven, The Vanishing Half, Everything I’ve Never Told You and The All--Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion. That last book was written by Fannie Flagg ten years ago and I read and liked it when it first came out. This week I listened to it and liked it even more. Fannie read the book for the audio version using both a southern and a Polish accent. I usually prefer audio books read by professionals but it didn’t take a deep dive on the internet to learn that Fannie IS an accomplished actress, comedian and author. She’s had parts in Grease, (playing the nurse), Fried Green Tomatoes (playing the teacher), Five Easy Pieces (playing Stoney) as well as she was on a long list of TV shows including two seasons on The Dick VanDyke Show. She was also a recurring panelist on an impressive list of popular game shows in the ‘70s and ‘80s. She was even nominated for two Academy Awards.
Although she wanted to, Fannie didn’t write during ‘70s but a note from a teacher in the audience of a game show, who noticed a pattern of misspelling in her answers, changed Ms Flagg’s life by telling her she’s dyslexia. “I was, am, severely dyslexic and couldn't spell, still can't spell," she said in an interview. "So I was discouraged from writing and embarrassed." This side-note on the author blew me away. I can’t tell you how many close friends and family have expressed shock when I’ve asked for help spelling a word. It’s deeply embarrassing to have to ask in the first place, then have them respond with something like, “How can you write if you can’t spell?” I tell them the mechanics of spelling isn't the same things as picking out the words you want to write. It's an inadequate explanation for a deeply misunderstood learning disability but it’s all I’ve got.
days kids with dyslexia are identified early on and they are given
tools to help keep them from falling behind. But they still struggle and
like many famous people who has come forth to share their stories
about growing up with this learning disability kids today still fear
reading out loud and getting bullied. Robin Williams joked he was the
only kid in his neighborhood who once went Trick or 'trouting'. Cher,
Henry Winkler, Richard Branson, Anderson Cooper, Albert Einstein and
Pablo Piasso have all written about their struggles with reading and
spelling. Clearly, dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence but I dare say those of us who have it have all been called 'stupid' or 'retard' while growing up.
Back to the book: The All--Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion is a lighter read than my book club usually picks and while we haven’t had our discussion yet, I’m getting the impression from a few snippets of conversions around the campus that others are not getting into the storyline like I did. I’m not surprised by that. The others have more sophisticated tastes in books and read more widely. I’ve been open about the fact that I’m dyslexic and that I came to love reading later in life than most people. Still, I like to think I hold my own with the discussions when I’m not having one of my tongue-tied days. All bets are off when that happens.
Okay, I should probably get down to what I liked about this book and that’s easy to answer. I love Ms Flagg’s research on the WASP (the Women’s Air Force Service Patrol). She was able to make this little known period of women’s history come alive. One of my ancestors, Amelia Earhart, was in the WASP so I was already aware of the more than 1,000 female pilots who racked up over 60 million miles of operational flights. When I think about them flying brand new planes from the factories to the air force bases and doing things like towing aerial targets for the guys in training to shoot at and transporting cargo in every type of military aircraft produced during WWII it makes me mad that it took decades and a signature from Jimmy Carter for these women to finally get included into the military history books. I read in one article the reason the air force didn’t want it known that women were able to flying the same planes as the men were flying is because they needed the combat pilots during WWII to feel like heroes. That may have been true during the '40s but it shouldn't have taken the Good Old Boys Club so long to finally give the WASP their due credit. Can you imagine the nerves of steel it took to pull a target behind a plane while fighter pilots in training tried to nail the target you were pulling?
I may not remember the story lines of most of the books I read but I do remember favorite passages that I collect from the books that speak to me. And From The All-Girls Filling Station Last Reunion the quote I saved came after the leading character's mother died and Sookie had time to reflect. This is what she told herself: “Thanks to Dr. Shapiro, she has learned that being a successful person is not necessarily defined by what you have achieved, but by what you have overcome. And she had overcome something that, for her, was huge. She had overcome her fear of displeasing her mother….”
Finding this new lens to judge my own life by, made the trip to the corner of Fiction and Dyslexia worth while. ©