She had something IT didn’t have.
More than a year ago I was on Oak Street in New Orleans walking around on a hot day. It was the dead of afternoon, and most stores were closed. Why had I come here? It was a Monday, the last day of my trip, and I wanted to explore uncharted territory—except there wasn’t much open minus a thrift store that sold Hawaiian shirts and a male clerk with a 1980s hairstyle. I walked around under the sun contemplating whether I should head back for the coffee shop I had seen along the way. Instead I continued to walk until I saw a Little Free Library. I stopped to check for books; there were less than five, and none of them seemed interesting except for a tattered book, titled A wrinkle In Time. The cover displayed a white Pegasus creature with the face of a human and rainbow wings, flying around the murky clouds of some distant planet. The creature was hovering above dark mountains and a blue orb surrounding a wrinkly man’s head with red eyes. I didn’t know what to make of it. Could this be about space travel? Above the title it read, “ The Newbery Award Winning Classic.” I’d seen this before in other youth novels when I was teaching elementary kids, but I don’t remember ever encountering this book. The front cover was wrinkled and the back was nonexistent. It was written by Madeleine L’s Engle in 1962. I opened it and found a page that displayed the author’s other books and on the bottom was a stamp, that read “this book rescued from the refuse by Philip Garside,” dated 4/28/11. “Please re-gift; do not throw away.”
While reading the book, I thought how great this would be as a movie. Recently I found out that Ava DuVernay (Selma) is directing an adaptation to be released next year, and she had a casting call in Nola! The book was written at a time when not many children’s novels had female heroines. As a science-fantasy story, it’s interesting for kids and adults with themes of time travel, space exploration, mind control, dystopian societies, and some odd mix of spirituality. The plot revolves around Meg and her brother Charles, who search for their missing father with the help of a friend and three beings that have the ability to change forms and travel through time and space. Their quest is to defeat a bodiless, telepathic brain called IT that controlled the people of Camazotz. Charles told Meg individuality had been done away with in this planet, and only a display of mechanistic behaviors were allowed. “Camazotz is ONE mind. It’s IT. And that’s why everyone’s so happy and efficient.” Before departing to Camazotz, which had been lost to darkness, Aunt Beast (another creature/alien friend) tells Meg,
For the things which are seen are temporal. But the things which are not seen are eternal.
This was the loveliest surprise one could get. I took the book and kept walking to the end of Oak Street until I saw a warehouse and some parade floats standing outside. I thought they were Mardi Gras floats being stored away for a near date. But it was June and Mardi Gras had already passed months ago. I assumed I would not be back again, so it was a treat to see them. I entered what appeared to be a thrift shop from the outside but was actually a small sign and billboard store. I talked to the owner, asking him if there was anything open on Oak Street. The guy on the laptop had long white hair. “Everything is mostly closed today, but I’m sure you’ll find something on the main avenue.” What brings you down here,” he asked. They had some used clothes hanging on a rack. I quickly glanced at them and talked to him for a bit longer, then went outside to face the hot sun. Someone walked by and said, “How are you?” I barely had the energy to respond. I finally walked back to the coffee shop I avoided and asked for water, sat down to cool off, and later ordered ice-cold tea and read my new book.