Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Do You Remember Your First 'Big Issue' Moment? by guest author Kath Russell

Do You Remember Your First 'Big Issue' Moment?

One of the wonderful things about writing my book, DEED SO, was transporting my adult self back to the time when I took my first step on the road to adulthood, the early Sixties. Through my main character, Haddie Bashford and her friends, Sarah Jane and Elise, I got to experience that first crush, those intense girl friendships, the first feelings of not being in shall we say total sync with your parents' view of the world, those yearnings to belong and those feelings of being misunderstood. Because DEED SO deals with important historical events that changed the face of America, I also got to write about Haddie as she first comes to grips with issues beyond her family, school, church and community -- issues playing out on the national and international stage, such as civil rights, the Vietnam war and women's rights. My generation went on to develop a phase for this experience when your eyes were opened to big goings-on, the moment when it stopped being 'all about you.' We said your consciousness had been raised.

Can you recall in your own life when you first connected with an external event in a visceral and cerebral way different from any connection you had made before.  A moment when you realized that your life and your immediate world did not exist in a bubble, but was joined at the hip with a bigger world, a vast place where forces were at work way beyond your control or understanding. For many people, 9/11 was such a moment. For others, the Challenger tragedy. My first recollection of an experience like this was the Hungarian Revolution. My parents subscribed to Time magazine. I never took much interest in it. Back in the day, young people did not get barraged with violent images as they do now. Television news was little more than a boring visual of talking heads. I didn't pay much attention to that either. One day I came home from school and happened to glance at the stack of mail on the kitchen table. A troubling image got my attention, and I slipped the magazine off the pile and took it to the den. The article about the revolt in Hungary was accompanied with graphic photographs. To this day, I can remember the picture of a bloody body being dragged by a tank.At dinner, I started asking questions. My parents were disturbed I had seen the pictures. My father cobbled together a mini-lecture on the evils of Communism and the glories of America, including freedom of speech and the right to assemble. The magazine was taken away from me and future issues of Time were removed from the mail stack before I got home from school. Life magazine disappeared too. Modern parents don't have the luxury of this kind of censorship.

I could not shake the image. It would wake me up in the dead of night. It haunted me on the school bus. The bloody body had power over me for months. Who was the young man? What could he possibly have done to forfeit his life so horribly? Who was the tank driver? Why was he so cruel?Years later I attended Northwestern University and majored in history. My focus was Russo-American relations, the Communist bloc, the Cold War and Totalitarianism in general. See a pattern here? Coincidence? I think not.

Try to recall your first close encounter with history writ large. Is the incident still an influence in your life?

In DEED SO, Haddie Bashford witnesses the killing of a black teenager by a white farmer. The racially charged tragedy shifts the balance in her small community of Wicomico Corners as surely as an earthquake. Haddie must testify at the trial of the farmer while the courthouse is surrounded by civil rights demonstrators. Violence begins to tear at the fabric of the formerly peaceful town. Mysterious fires are set which lead to fear and finger pointing. Finally, the arson claims lives and impacts the destiny of everyone close to Haddie. In the midst of this upheaval, Haddie's secret love interest returns from Vietnam, a changed man with a mission that puts him on a collision course with the establishment. Haddie's baptism into the world of adult conflicts forces her to chose between her family, her friends and her love. She learns that choices have consequences in the most tragic of twists, when she becomes convinced that she is directly responsible for the death of others. Come join Haddie and her friends as they live out the last year of innocence, the year before President Kennedy was assassinated, and the civil rights struggle, the women's rights movement and the Vietnam war changed America forever.

Thanks for inviting me to blog!

About the author:  Kath Russell enjoyed over thirty-five years in marketing and communications management in the biotechnology industry. She was an executive with one of the first genetic engineering companies. Russell also was president of Russell-Welsh Strategic Life Science Communications, Inc., and founder and chief executive officer of an ecommerce company offering services for mature companion animals and veterinarians. Russell received her bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University, her master’s degree in journalism from Boston University, her master’s of business administration from the Kellogg School of Management, and earned her certificate in creative writing from the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program


June M. said...

I can't really remember but I believe my first 'Big Issue moment' would have been the Challenger. Even though I was young (like 5th grade) I still remember watching the explosion on tv at school. It was very hard. My nieces had it worse, in my opinion. They were in Kindergarten & 1st grade when 9/11 occurred and their teachers had this playing all day where the children were watching it. It was very traumatizing for such young children.

Linda Henderson said...

I would say my first Big Issue moment was when my father died on Christmas morning when I was 8. It has pretty much colored my Christmas my whole life. Then on May 22 of this year my hometown was devastated by an EF5 tornado killing 161 people and leaving thousands homeless. Myself and my oldest daughter both lost virtually everything. At my age it was difficult starting over from scratch but at least I had a place to go. I now live with my youngest daughter and her family. My oldest is currently living at her fathers with her family. It's been a tough 6 1/2 months. Hopefully the new year will bring better times.

seriousreader at live dot com

engelsigh said...

@June M. I think the Challenger was probably my first Big Issue moment too...and then the first gulf war. There have been many in my life since then, especially 9/11. My stepdaughters weren't even born when it happened, so to them, the twin towers have never been there. Which is just plain weird, in my opinion. But then again, in their lifetimes, people have also had laptops, cellphones and ipods.

@Linda, I am very sorry to hear about your recent losses and I hope that soon you will be back on your feet and things will be better.

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