My favoritest book of all time is Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. During seven weeks in Haiti, she wrote the love story of Janie and Tea Cake, the tragedies that ended it and the miserable marriages that preceded it. The book was perhaps the antithesis of Hurston's own great love story: Janie tells Tea Cake she has no regrets of following him into the hard, impoverished life in the Florida Everglades even as they face a deadly hurricane, while Hurston refused to give up her career to marry her love, according to this bio.

Her book might have been worth the sacrifice. She begins:
The people all saw her come because it was sundown. The sun was gone, but he had left his footprints in the sky. It was the time for sitting on porches beside the road. It was the time to hear things and talk. These sitters had been tongueless, earless, eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and other brutes had occupied their skins. But now, the sun and the bossman were gone, so the skins felt powerful and human. They became lords of sounds and lesser things. They passed nations through their mouths. They sat in judgment.
In other words, those catty biddies were running their mouths again - but said with much better imagery and depth! Who hasn't been reduced to a mule or brute through hard work and disenfranchisement only to turn in judgment of others perceived to be even less powerful? Moreover, who hasn't met these people so aptly described? (I'll name no names, but I can tell you, I hadn't met such petty people when I first read this book in college, but I have since then.)

Maybe someday I will write more - better - than what I write now. But in the meantime, my awe of JK Rowling is deepening. I love the imagination, the depth and the humanness that went into the Harry Potter series. I read them one after another obsessively. Perhaps I slept through some parts (I literally pulled a few all nighters reading) but I never got bored with the characters or the plot.

And recently, I found this video of Rowling's speech at Harvard's graduation last year. It provides further evidence that her life and ideas are much deeper than a simple children's story about love and magic. She talked about the fringe benefits of failure and the power of imagination.

She told the graduates:
"We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have the power to imagine better."
Who better than good writers to wade into the dark, strike a match, and show us we still have much to fear and much to celebrate?
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