I had the privilege of attending a speaker series at McKendree University last week. The speaker was Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle, Half Broke Horses and The Silver Star.
Ms Walls gave a brief summary of her life, for the few (if any) in the audience that had not read The Glass Castle. It had been a while since I had read the book. and she mentioned facts I had forgotten about – setting herself on fire while cooking a hot dog on the stove at age three, her father whisking her out of the hospital in the middle of the night, and while riding in a taxi in New York City realizing the homeless person digging through the trash was in fact her mother.
Ms Walls had a difficult childhood to say the least, and her father was a huge part of the dysfunction. He drank to the point of not having food to for his children, yet Ms Walls came away from her childhood with an ability to dream and hope. This she said came from her father. Throughout her childhood, her father promised to build his family a glass castle, their dream house, when he finally made his fortune. He taught his children to dream and the author felt that this shaped her and her siblings to be successful (the three oldest siblings anyway).
She said that her fantasy when writing The Glass Castle was that a rich girl would read it and understand where the poor kids in class were coming from and then she hoped that a poor child would read it and realize there is hope, and that dreams are important to be successful. Both fantasies have come true, as teenagers have given testimony Ms Walls changed their lives.
The audience was able to ask questions to Ms Walls. A few things we learned: her mother is now living with the author on her ranch, caring for the family’s horses. She is still as eccentric as ever, and no one expects that to change. The land in Texas is still in their possession. There may be natural gas or oil but most likely it is just dry dirt like most of west Texas. There will be a movie made, most likely by Lion’s Gate.
Ms Walls is such an inspiring person, with an exceptionally inspiring story to tell. She is down-to-earth and open about her past, and unashamed of it, although it has taken her years to reach that point. Her speech and her story make me feel blessed with what I have and more aware and sympathetic to those that come from a different way of life.
By Karen MacMillan