Friday, September 6, 2019

Legacy of Hope

My memorial post will shock exactly no one. Andre Norton. Wikipedia says: Andre Alice Norton was an American writer of science fiction and fantasy, who also wrote works of historical fiction and contemporary fiction. She wrote primarily under the pen name Andre Norton, but also under Andrew North and Allen Weston. She was the first woman to be Gandalf Grand Master of Fantasy, first woman to be SFWA Grand Master, and first inducted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

I never got to meet Ms. Norton, as much as I wish I could have. She was my constant companion through out my childhood. Her books gave me glimpses of a much broader and stranger world than the one in which I lived. Her books presented diverse heroes and heroines. She served up different races, different religions and wove them into compelling aspects of the stories she had to tell. It may not have been any kind of culturally complete representation, but it was at least assurance that the future wasn't entirely white and male. 

More importantly, her books and characters gave me hope. She liked to write about the outcasts and the odd - the people and creatures living on the outskirts. I was a lonely military brat who felt pretty keenly like she was living on the edges. If book after book of characters can have happy endings even if they are weirdos, maybe there was hope for me. (Spoiler: there was. Why do you think I write books?)

To this day, I look for Andre Norton books I might not yet own. And when I had to swap out my library of paper books for electronic versions thereof (this is a much less satisfying library, btw) the books I flat refused to part with were hers. Because they mattered that much. They still do. I have an entire truck of nothing but Andre Norton books.

Yes. She has an award named in her honor. I love that. But really, when we talk about legacy, the one that I feel matters most is the fact that an author I never got to meet touched and changed my life simply because she told me a story. And kept telling me stories about many different definitions of success and of what kinds of sacrifice might be required in order to find or make my place in the world. If I get to pick what kind of legacy I leave, there is no better one I can think of than to have my books hoarded because they matter to a reader. I can think of no better legacy than to bring a little light and hope into someone else's life the way Andre Norton did for me. 

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