Celebrating the 50th anniversary of A Wrinkle in Time: A look back from Madeline L’Engle’s granddaughter, Léna
Guest post by Léna Roy
Do you remember the first book you fell in-love with, the first book that inspired you to read, to ingest all other books and other worlds like there was no tomorrow?
I am sure that I am not alone when I tell you that A Wrinkle in Time was my book.
Thirty-six years ago, I was in second grade when Sister Madeleine Mary started reading it to my class. I remember sitting ramrod straight on the floor in my navy blue uniform dress and white knee socks, listening to Sister intone the words of Mrs Whatsit and Meg.
I wasn’t reading books that complex yet on my own, but I couldn’t wait until the next week when Sister would read us another chapter: I had to start reading it myself. Fortunately, the author, (my grandmother) lived down the street and I could poach a copy from her. It was then that my reading took off, and my life was never the same.
Did my motivation have anything to do with the fact that my grandmother was Madeleine L’Engle? Sure my Gran was magical and mystical and all that, but she was mine – she belonged to me. I think that it was too big of a concept for me to process at that time, that everybody else would have a piece of my Gran just from reading her words.
No, it was the wonderful story that compelled me, and kept compelling me to rediscover over and over again, learning new things each time I read it. I am sure that I felt the closest kinship to the book when I was eleven or twelve, but that didn’t stop me from falling in-love with the possibility of “story” when I was seven. I grew up with the characters – I understood Meg, marveled at CW, and crushed on Calvin.
From the beginning, when Meg is scared in the attic on “a dark and stormy night” I slip into her skin, going downstairs for the comfort of hot chocolate and my mother and brother. I too am wary of Mrs Whatsit at first, not trusting the world “out there” – the world that has not only taken my father, but uses his absence as a way to isolate my family. I too tingle with surprise when we meet Calvin in the woods and bring him home for dinner, and I am ready to believe the Mrs W’s when they call on us/them to save Meg’s father on the planet Camazotz.
It was the first book I read where I – so closely identifying with Meg – got to be the hero, where I realized that parents are fallible, and that anger and stubbornness aren’t necessarily “faults” – that our anger and stubbornness can protect us and serve a purpose. And that love is most important when it’s not just a feeling, but an action, a verb.
For it’s fortieth anniversary, I developed a workshop based on Wrinkle – first for a Drama Therapy conference, and then for the education department at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine. I still love to lead this workshop: using both drama and writing exercises – with a combination of collaborative and individual work, my hope is for participants to emerge empowered through working with the archetypes of Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin. (I will be leading this specific workshop at the Mobile Library in Mobile, Alabama on the morning of March 3rd, and the Chappaqua Library in Chappaqua, NY on the afternoon of March 20th.)
Now to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of a book that almost didn’t get published (26 rejections!), Farrar, Straus, and Giroux has republished a gorgeous special edition of A Wrinkle in Time with a stunning retro jacket flap in FLAMES, and then, when we remove the cover, SURPRISE! We are treated to the original navy blue circles gracing the hardback.
This little-book-that-could won the Newbery Award in 1963 and has just been named by School Library Journal as the #3 top children’s book of all time, only to be topped by Charlotte’s Web and Goodnight Moon.
What would Gran think? I KNOW that she is thrilled that we are keeping her memory alive and that all of us are making such a big fuss over the 50th birthday of her amazing opus. We will be feeling her beams of joy radiating through the universe, holding us. All of us who love Madeleine L’Engle, whether as a family member, a friend or a fan – we all share in her legacy of the power of her written words and the joy of reading them. We have all become more quintessentially “us” because of “her”. Wouldn’t you agree?
What is your book, the one that turned you into a life-long reader? (For my boys it’s been Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.)
Léna Roy is an author as well as a granddaughter to a famous novelist, a mother to three children, a wife and a teacher. Her first novel for Young Adults is Edges, published by FSG in December of 2010. Léna was raised in New York City, in the cloistered environs of a theological seminary, and survived the extracurricular education provided by Manhattan’s 1980s club scene. In between writing and spending time with her family, Léna runs the Westchester/ Fairfield Branch of Writopia Lab, a not-for-proﬁt dedicated to empowering youth through creative writing. You can find Léna on www.lenaroy.com