|Poster by Debby Dahl Edwardson|
Although Memorial Day is officially dedicated to remembering those who've died in service to their country in the armed forces, I would argue that there are many ways to be of service to the country apart from military service. When I think of Ellen Levine today, I am reminded how much we need word warriors, too.
Ellen was the kind of fearless writer who tackled difficult issues head on, and who knew how to wield the power of a story to make a difference. She brought to light stories that many others were too afraid to tell. She wrote about the challenges of McCarthy-era life for a communist family. She wrote about teens dealing with unwanted pregnancy in the days before Roe v. Wade made choice a legal option. She interviewed young civil rights activists, capturing their true stories of the 1960's protest era. She wrote about Japanese internment camps in the Pacific northwest during World War II. And the list goes on.
Ellen did not just write about issues--she put herself on the line for the causes she believed in, stepping forward in the face of all the difficult things about which she felt such deep passion. She marched for civil rights, taught, practiced law, and generally dedicated herself to creating a more just world. She said, "caring about fairness is a big part of the well I dip into....I wonder and still have only bits of an answer for why some people live on the dark side. And why some risk everything to fight the darkness. Here's to fighting the darkness!"
|Ellen's latest novel, IN TROUBLE|
I believe that on Memorial Day we ought not simply honor what is lost, but also celebrate what has been preserved. When soldiers die on the battlefield, we are ready with medals and parades in their honor. When word warriors die, it may not have been on the battlefield per se, and there may not be medals or parades, but there will surely be quiet revolutions happening in the mind of a child, curled in the corner of a library, captivated by the truth of a story. That is how we can walk forward, knowing that which seems lost is continually being found.
Happy Memorial Day.