Red Sky at Morning Review
When I was a junior in high school I was in two classes with my favorite teacher ever. I was in her advanced English class and on the Literary Magazine staff. She was a great teacher, one that shaped my life ever since. I don't know what she saw in my writing, but I'm grateful she saw something. She encouraged me, offered actual critiques, advice, and treated me like I was actually onto something when I wrote. It's safe to say she's the reason I'm still writing.
At the end of my junior year I was sitting in her classroom working on finishing up our notes for the literary magazine that year. I had already agreed to come back and be “Head” editor the following year, so I wanted to leave myself a few reminders.
As I was working she came over to the desk where I was working and said “Nate...this is probably a good book for you to read.” and placed a trade paperback on my desk, then left the room. She seemed a little nervous, I guess because giving gifts to one student instead of any others might seem somewhat preferential.
The book was Red Sky At Morning by Richard Bradford.
Published in 1968, Red Sky At Morning is set during World War II, in a small town in New Mexico. You can read up on the book itself on Wikipedia or, even better, just read the thing. It's been praised by Harper Lee and others, it's worth your time. It's a coming of age novel, with a keen and compassionate eye for humans who are simply doing their best to be human.
I haven't re-read it in years, but today I read the entire thing in a single sitting. And I realized as I read it that these characters have had a deep and lasting impact on me, that this book a teacher gave me years ago has shaped me, modified my perceptions, from simple things like a lifelong love of carnitas to a strong desire to be multi-lingual, so that I can talk to and relate to people in their own language instead of insisting everyone convert their thoughts to my tongue.
It's a quiet book, full of personal tragedies and victories, giving an intimate picture of how people cope or fail to cope, but still carry on.
I don't know if it would have the same impact on me if I read it for the first time at my current phase of life, instead of as a teenager. But it doesn't really matter, I suppose. I'm glad I read it. I'm happy to have re-read it, decades after I graduated high school. Give it a shot.