A few weeks ago, courtesy of the PEN/Faulkner Writers in Schools program, I was honored to join a group of high-school seniors in a public school here in DC for a discussion of Soul of a People and the WPA writers’ experiences.
The English class of the Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering High School in Northeast DC had read up on the 1930s and American literature of the time. They could compare our current recession with the Great Depression, noting that segregation compounded the bad economy’s pain for African American families and others. They could compare the experiences of people who had made their careers as writers in very different fields.
The students had smart observations and insightful questions, ranging from what I learned about other backgrounds while researching the story of Soul of a People, to the role of music in writing, and advice for young writers (Read, Write). They also proved capable of flattery (one called the book "captivating"). I thanked them then and I thank them here for the attention and respect paid. And I thank PEN/Faulkner for making the visit possible.
For the rest of the day I rode a swell of optimism for the future of reading and creative expression.
I look forward to joining another group in July for PEN/Faulkner's Summer Supper Book Club.