"The best children's stories are wisdom dipped in art and words." -Peter Reynolds

Sunday, April 20, 2014

But I'll Be Back Again

But I'll Be Back Again by Cynthia Rylant was published in 1993 by Beech Tree Books. Her storytelling is as lively, engaging, and beautiful, as one would imagine Rylant's autobiography to be. Usually I am not a fan of listening to people talk about themselves but her story is compelling! Rylant's story explains her childhood in a small West Virginian town including, but not limited to, stories about her alcoholic father, absent mother, experiences with boys, the Beatles, and her son. Every section of the book is met with a quote from a Beatles song  that describes that section, which I found very poetic. 

Rylant's ability to connect with her inner child and past experiences in her childhood is truly remarkable. It is obvious this is why she is such a wonderfully acclaimed children's book author. She is able to recount her experiences from her inner child's perspective that so many of us have experienced before. "I got my first kiss when I was eleven years old, and for the next several years I did so much kissing that I barely had time to take a breath. I loved to kiss, and still do, and apart from going out for ice cream, there are few things as easy and enjoyable. My first kiss occurred at a party during a game of Spin the Bottle," (47). It is reassuring to relate our childhoods to such a famous and talented author. We must be doing something right!

All people, especially women, can relate to Rylant's hilarious and awkward adolescent experiences with her body and the opposite sex. I found myself laughing out loud when Rylant explained her struggles with her first bra. "I hated bras. I'd been an ace volleyball player until I started wearing bras. I could never keep the strap up; sometimes I couldn't even keep a bra in the right place. I'd serve a volleyball and either the strap would be hanging over my elbow or the bra would be up around my neck," (33). Rylant's consistent honesty draws readers in and makes them relate to her experiences very well. 

I feel a very strong connection to Rylant due to our similar childhood experiences and artistic outlets. This book was very personal to me. My parents divorced when I was five because my mother is an alcoholic so I very much sympathized with Rylant's childhood explanations and feelings. For example, when she said, 

"I think I believed that if I were really really good then I would make them happy and they wouldn't fight. Children always think they can make their parents happy, so they try a hundred different ways to please them, but nothing works. The parents still yell at each other and they still yell at their children, and all the goodness in the world, or in one little child, will not help that. No one ever told me when I was little that my parents' battles were not my fault. I am certain I must have felt they were, and I believe I grew up with this big feeling inside that said, 'Whenever anyone who is with you is unhappy, it is you fault.' I didn't know, growing up, that I didn't have to make people happy," (16).

I couldn't have explained this better myself for that was exactly my thoughts growing up and the reason I am how I am today. Who knew that an autobiography of an award-winning children's book author could make you cry and come to terms with your childhood traumas and influences? Additionally, it brought me to tears to read Rylant's explanation of her feelings when her mother abandoned her because that was how I felt as a child, also. After my parents' divorce, my mother left and I was raised by my father:

"My mother wrote to me regularly (putting a stick of chewing gum inside every letter), and a few times a year she was able to come and see me. But it was not enough for a little girl. I believe that deep down I felt I just had not been good enough to make her want to stay. For a child there is never a good reason for a mother to leave. My mother's few trips each year to see me, instead of making things better, only made things worse. It would be wonderful having her back with me again, and I would have so much to tell her and so many things to show her. Then suddenly it would be time for her to go, and I could hardly bear it," (17). 

I think I have a stronger connection to Cynthia Rylant than most people because of our childhoods. Her ability to put pain and childhood memories into words has really moved me. This autobiography has instantly touched my heart and young adults will definitely relate to her life as they live through these similar experiences. For adults, it will make them recall their childhood experiences, both positive and negative, and give them the strength to grow and move on from them. Our childhoods do not make us all that we are, but they definitely have played a monumental role. 

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