This year, the American Library in Paris participated for the first time ever in the Letters About Literature contest created by the Library of Congress. The idea was for school-age children to write to an author who has changed the reader somehow, or changed their view of the world.
We’ve selected two winners from the entries we received, and all of the letters have been sent on to the national contest. The winners chosen by the American Library in Paris are Loic Lescoat (7-8 grade group) and Molly Griffiths (for the high school group). The two young writers were given a set of brand new, award winning books as well as a calligraphy set to encourage their writing. You can read their letters below:
Dear George Orwell,
Before I read 1984, my concept of freedom was very different from what it is now. Before, I thought freedom was something that I didn’t have much of as a child, but would have more of as an adult. Now I understand that it has a much broader meaning.
Freedom is in fact a most precious and precarious thing. It is a notion that has evolved over four millennia since the start of the first civilization to become what it is today. But it could have been wiped out completely multiple times and is a constant, never-ending battle for liberty.
Seeing that the Party members in your book did not have freedom of speech, or even freedom of thought, made me realize how fortunate I am to be able to enjoy this every day. This gratefulness is amplified by the thought of people in some countries in the world who don’t have these very basic rights.
Winston’s only hope to make a difference in the world is by writing in his journal. My possibilities, on the other hand, are endless. I could do research in science to look for an accessible energy source, I could be president and change peoples’ lives, or I could just turn off unneeded lights and conserve energy to battle global warming. When you think about it, so many people today have a chance to have a major impact on the world.
For the first thirty pages of 1984, I didn’t think the story was particularly plausible: I mean, malevolent policemen who can practically read your mind? A world divided into just three countries? And how did the Inner Party members take control anyway? All this seemed completely unrealistic.
It was only after doing a bit of reading that I was awoken to the fact that such an oppressive system really was possible, and could have happened quite a few times in history (the German Nazis and Russian Communists), and that 1984 was in fact a message to the world: if totalitarians took power, it would be extremely hard to reverse this change, and after a certain point in time, rebellion would be completely impossible. People would have a hard time communicating their dreams of freedom because of Newspeak and probably wouldn’t want to change things because they would have no memory of what life was like before the Revolution. Humanity would be doomed to never think for themselves again.
This thought led me to promising myself that should anyone attempt to jeopardize even the smallest of freedoms, I will always stand firm in what I believe is right. Recently I thought of you when my very popular friend asked me why I hung out with my other not-so-popular friend. He said that he didn’t see why I liked him. I replied that it was my call as to whether I wanted to be friends with him or not. It was at that moment that I realized how important it was to me to befriend whoever I wanted to, and how happy it made me to meet new people, and I shuddered at the idea of somebody else deciding for me who I should talk to, as was the case for Winston.
Over the two weeks that it has taken me to read your book, I have learned far more than I ever thought a book could teach me: once freedom is acquired, this does not mean that it is ours for keeps. In the future I will remember to fight for a society for the people, by the people. Thank you for your beautiful writing, and I hope it enlightens many others to come.
Dear Madeleine L’Engle,
People have always told me that I lack confidence in myself. I have rarely been able to compliment or laugh at myself. But then I read Wrinkle in Time, and it made me believe in who I am, because of the way Meg believes in who she is.
The idea of time-travelling had always seemed impossible to me. That was until I met Mrs. Who and her two extraordinary friends. Travelling, or tessering, through galaxies and dimensions you’ve never heard of before, with those three women accompanying you, you wouldn’t think it to be impossible, which it is what the book taught me.
Love is unconditional, a saying that few understand and believe. But sometimes, a person’s capacity to love can change everything. I was touched when Meg saved her brother from IT, by just simply loving him, which made me think that a person’s fate can be changed by love.
I feel connected to this book because I think I am very much like Meg. A misunderstood, self-conscious young girl, willing to go to any lengths to save someone she loves, and who has the strength to love in the face of pure hate.
Before I read your book, I would internalize insults and start believing in them, thus losing confidence in myself. Charles Wallace, who is called a “moron”, because he doesn’t speak, while he actually has an advanced knowledge for his age, inspired me to change my view of myself, and stand up to the insulting given to me by people who didn’t actually know me.
Meg and Charles Wallace taught me to stand up for myself, and for others, and to gain confidence. It has changed me because now, I fight back, instead of retreating.
My life will be different from now on, because I have become a new person; a self-confident person, who isn’t afraid of showing who she is.
So I would like to thank you, Madeleine, for helping me realize that I like who I am, and also for teaching to stand up for myself.