The Book That Made Natasha Tretheway What She is Today

I was fortunate enough to meet and work with former poet laureate Natasha Tretheway years ago when she was an artist-in-residence at my school, a memorable experience that has stayed with me ever since.  And so I was delighted today to see her in the current New York Times Book Review’s By the Book feature.  While all of it is worthwhile reading, one answer stood out for me as I might answer with the same book though from a different point of view.

If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be?

“The Diary of Anne Frank.” I read it when I was in the fourth grade and it showed me how a young girl from another time, place, race, culture, experience and situation could be so like me, that I could connect to her through a shared need, the necessary utterance of her words, and that my capacity for empathy could be deepened by reading the intimate account she left us in her own voice.

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4 responses to “The Book That Made Natasha Tretheway What She is Today

  1. Susan Golden

    I appreciate Ms Trethaway’ s comment abd the impact the Duarte had on her, but Jews are not another race or culture. They are a religious group. perhaps she means it in a general way, that books can help us understand and empathize with others and I misunderstood her appreciation.

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  2. Ms. Golden, I’m not sure why you take issue with the fact that Jewish cultures and subcultures actually exist. Religious observance has never been the definition of being Jewish. The fate of Anne Frank and of millions of her fellow European Jews should make that obvious.
    Ms. Edinger, could you elaborate on why you found the quote so moving? I certainly did, and one reason was the strong statement Tretheway made about how we respond to literature by authors who don’t necessarily come from our cultural, religious, or racial background. That point certainly needs to be reiterated.
    In addition, in the light of recent events, it is important for anyone who is Jewish to express solidarity with the Jewish people,and not minimize it with qualifiers about not being religious. Anti-Semitism is part of the xenophobia which has flourished since the 2016 election, but it is also a distinct and dangerous form of hatred.

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    • I too was moved by Natasha’s connection to a book that was not of her own culture or experience. As for identifying as Jewish and speaking out, I agree it is important and hope I am seen as someone who does (which is why I wrote this post:).

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