That Distant Afternoon

When I was fifteen, my sophomore English teacher, Marilynne Stinebaugh, saw that I was frustrated with the class’s offerings (Hemingway, and more Hemingway) and brought me some books from her personal library that she thought I’d like. That gift completely altered the course of my life. In the stack were many books that have since become long-time favorites–Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day, Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own–and at the very bottom of the pile was a fat, ancient copy of Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Col. Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

I swallowed this book like I was starving. I’d never read anything like it. I realized that novels could be complex and strange, that magic could leap off the page, that history and real life could be folded into fiction. I sketched out family trees to keep track of the characters, laughed, gasped, and cried, and when I finished, went back and read it again. To say that Márquez has been an influence in my work is an understatement. Thank you, Gabo, for sharing your gifts with us.

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