I’ve had some wonderful opportunities lately to spread the word about The History of My Body, appearing on Connie Martinson Talks Books and being interviewed the past few days on radio talk shows, among them WKNY-AM with Warren Lawrence, WXBR-AM with Ron Van Dam, and KCAA-AM with Erin, Paul, and John. Each of my interviewers generously suggested that my book would make a wonderful holiday gift, which brought to mind a few words I wrote as a guest author for Just the Right Book about one of my all-time favorite holiday gift books.

In the spirit of the season – in the bath of the winter solstice, the second night of Hanukkah, and Christmas nearly upon us – I encourage you to think of books when you’re facing down the crowds for your last minute gifts…not just my book, but any book that promises to light up the darkness as much as this one did mine, as I described it for Just the Right Book:

What a wonderful coupling ~ the winter holidays can open our hearts; a terrific book often opens new worlds! At fifteen, I was a relative newcomer to the college town of Berkeley, California. My plumber father and waitress mother had taken advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to start their own business and moved us out of L.A., where I’d actually been one of the popular kids for the first (and only) time. Berkeley in those days was pretty tame, suspended in a brief hiatus between being a west coast anchor to the beat generation and a lightning rod for the sixties. I hated the sweet rhythms of that small town; the boys all seemed awkward, and the girls barely wore any makeup! Lonely, sullen, and mutely lost to myself as only a teenager can be, I was surprised with a gift from one of the more sympathetic Cal students who worked at my family’s hamburger joint: a copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Suddenly I was on fire. Whitman’s poems alerted me to a world beyond my constant quarrel with my parents and a body sprouting unwelcome curves, strange smells, and unmentionable desires. Instead, he celebrated such things, poking his protean imagination into the glories of sex, our kinship with the natural world, and death as the enigmatic frame for life’s rich palette. Reading “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking,” I hardly knew what to do with myself. What kind of a magician was this Whitman, looking like a cross between a hobo and God, with his dented hat and curling white beard? How could the cry of a mockingbird for its missing mate stir such a hunger in me? As I remember all this, it’s beginning to dawn on me just how much my writing The History of My Body – with its young protagonist Fleur mourning the fallen petals of a rose, savoring the luminous patterns of light rippling across a pool, losing herself to the first boy who calls her “beautiful,” finding the irreplaceable solace of friendship – was seeded by that early, poignant call.

Image via http://www.wicca-spirituality.com/akhilandeshvari.html

And in the spirit of yet another cultural tradition, noted by Julie (JC) Peters in her wonderful Elephant essay Why Lying Broken in a Pile on Your Bedroom Floor is a Good Idea, may Akhilandeshvari, the Hindu Never-Not-Broken-Goddess, bring depth and transformation to your life. After all, as I’ve noted here before – and how I begin The History of My Body, citing Leonard Cohen’s Anthem – it’s through that very brokenness that the light gets in.