Modern Day Heroes

What is a hero?

According to the late Christopher Reeve, “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” That’s a good definition. However, isn’t “hero” is used a little loosely in our society when people like LeBron James, Michael Phelps, or Peyton Manning are called heroes. Exceptional athletes, yes. Heroes? I think not.

However, my favorite quote about heroes does come from an athlete:
“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.  It is not the urge to surpass all others
 at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”

This is from tennis great Arthur Ashe, a three-time Grand Slam winner. Was Ashe a hero? Undoubtedly, but not solely because of his athletic ability. He was a hero because he broke the racial barrier in tennis. He was a hero because when he contracted AIDS from a transfusion and used it as an opportunity to bring awareness to the disease. Arthur Ashe served others.

Not surprisingly, when you go in search of quotes about heroes, more than a few refer to “he.” While it’s possible to have a hero from another gender, I think humans have a tendency to compare themselves to their own gender. Females of all ages need heroes. We need someone to look up to, to tell us that the impossible is possible, and encourage us to be better people.

I am currently working on a children’s book about female astronauts, so I took special notice when astronaut Sally Ride died on July 23. She was the first American female astronaut in space. As a mission specialist for the shuttle Challenger, she made history on June 18, 1983. Along with the announcement of her death was the previously unknown news that she gay. When people debated why she hadn’t come out earlier, the heroism of Sally Ride was sadly put aside.

Sally Ride broke the gender barrier in the American space program. The fact that it took 20 years after the first women in space (Valentina Tereshkova) was unfortunate as was the fact that other qualified women known as the Mercury 13 were passed over.

But she did it! The fact that an astronaut is female rarely makes news anymore because there are many. This is what breaking down barriers does, makes the extraordinary ordinary.

After a couple of flights in space, Sally served on a commission investigating the later Challenger tragedy and became the first director of NASA’s Office of Exploration. Like Arthur Ashe, she served others. After retiring from space, Sally inspired new generations in science education. She showed girls that science was cool.

We all need heroes. Thank you, Sally Ride.

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The Wonder of Libraries

I’m a huge fan of the public libraries and have been a regular at my own for at least 25 years for both reading and writing. I believe if I didn’t visit my own library at least once a month, they would probably send me a get well card.

Much of my writing is nonfiction—articles, children’s books—which depends on research from the library. And when my children were young, we went to story time. What amazing people children’s librarians are, to introduce books to future readers.

It was on a visit to the library that I discovered mysteries. Up until that time, my fiction tastes ran toward classics and literary fiction. But as a new mother, I was exhausted, brain-dead. I was desperate for a good story that would engage my imagination.  I wanted to be able return to my book after the one thousand interruptions in a mother’s day and be able to fall back into the story. Literary fiction wasn’t doing it for me any longer.

While perusing the new bookshelves at the library, a title leaped out at me. Southern Ghost. Now that sounded interesting. I picked it up and began reading the inside flap. A Death on Demand mystery.  I didn’t know. A mystery. Not only that, it was a series and not the first. Reading within a series felt like coming into the middle of a movie. But I was intrigued by the plot. The protagonist was a bookstore owner, Annie Darling, who was investigating a murder because her husband was a suspect. One of my fantasy jobs (and of many readers) is owning a bookstore. I moved to the back inside flap and saw that the author, Carolyn Hart, was from Oklahoma. Exactly where I happened to be. More intriguing. I decide to check it out.

I was hooked. I loved the characters, the plot. I liked how Hart mentioned other mystery books and authors in the bookstore setting. I promptly returned to the library where I read the other Death on Demand mysteries. Those I couldn’t find, I bought at the bookstore. When I exhausted those, I moved on to other others. Hart had given me suggestions of where to start. Once I found an author I liked, I read everything she wrote. And they were probably 98% women authors. I liked strong women protagonists who solved the mysteries. These were almost always written by women—Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller, Julie Smith. Later, I added Laura Lippman and Karin Slaughter to the list.

The point is that none of this would have happened without the public library. Libraries are magical, wonderful places. And they are importants. Even in times of economic uncertainty and 99 cent e-books, we need to support our public libraries. You’ll find other authors who agrees at http://savethelibraries.com/.

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Announcing the Birth of my Novel

It was a long pregnancy, but a few days ago I was blessed with the arrival of my first…novel. Like my actual pregnancies (three of them!), I was impatient for the arrival and thought it would never come. It had been 17 years in the making, which beats an elephant’s 22-month pregnancy by far. Even if you subtract the years that I put it away for various reasons, it was still a long pregnancy. Just the publishing process—from submission to being available at your neighborhood Amazon location—took hmmm…22 months. Interesting coincidence.

However, like many first pregnancies, including my own, when birth was imminent, I started having second thoughts not unlike the hugely pregnant woman who can barely walk who says, “I’ve changed my mind.” Of course, there’s no logical way to turn back at this point, but people about to give birth are rarely logical. The change of mind, I believe, is our way of saying “I’m not sure I’m ready for this.”

It’s also about not wanting to let go of your “baby.” Once you give birth, you lose that special connection that made the baby yours. Now, your baby becomes part of the world at large and susceptible to all the joys and pains of living.

Labor pains came with the birth of my book just as with my children, although they were less physical. There’s a wider range of drugs available to dull the pain of publishing a novel, from food to alcohol to FreeCell games. 

I’ve published over thirty children’s nonfiction books, written parts of a few travel guidebooks, and published dozens of articles over the years. But publishing a novel was different just as different pregnancies are unique. Not better, just different.

Now it’s time to step back and allow my first-born to stretch its wings in the world (I will admit that this part is INFINITELY easier than the raising and letting go of actual children. For one thing, books don’t talk back!). Goodbye, A Class on Murder. It’s been a grand ride, but it’s time for us to move on. I have other children waiting to be born.

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“A Class on Murder” makes the rounds

A Ronnie Raven Mystery

K.B. Gibson recently spoke at a Friends of the Chickasha Library Summer Luncheon series. See more at Summer Luncheon Series Norman author entertains library friends.

Gumshoe Review is reviewing A Class on Murder in its current issue. Gumshoe says, “Humor is provided via the lively exchanges between Ronnie and her close friend, drama professor Terry Panetta and her black Labrador James Dean who takes to the young policeman much to her chagrin. Gibson manages to keep a romance simmering with the young policeman and an ending that may surprise some readers.” See the review at Gumshoe Review.

 

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Recognizing a Hero

Church attendance was skimpy on Memorial Day weekend, the official start of summer. While families and friends were sitting on their boats on lakes, our family attended church. A small part of the program was devoted to recognizing and honoring my father-in-law, a World War II veteran.

According to the National World War II museum in New Orleans, a memory of World War II vanishes every 90 seconds. That’s how often one a veteran of the “Great War” dies. Of the 16 million Americans who fought, there are less than 1.7 million remaining. By 2036, they will all be gone.

In the Native American community, there are even fewer, but no other group had a higher percentage of men fighting in World War II than Native Americans. Ironic, isn’t it? The military reports that 99% of Native American men enrolled in the draft. Beyond those called to serve, 40% more VOLUNTEERED. My father-in-law was one of them.

Required by the government to attend Indian boarding school from a young age, my father-in-law left Goodland School at age 16 to volunteer. He lied about his age and probably added to his height by standing on his toes too. He was sent to the Pacific and fought in places like Guadalcanal. He was assigned to artillery, which started a hearing loss that has only exacerbated over time.

The man who organized the tribute got up to speak. I don’t remember what was said, but I do remember tears running down my face. My father-in-law is the most patriotic man I know. I’ve seen him get emotional when he feels like the American flag is being mistreated. I knew of no other man more deserving of this honor.

The church gave him a Pendleton blanket and their thanks for the sacrifices he made for us all. Next to me, the toughest of my sons swiped at his eyes. I worried that my father-in-law wouldn’t understand what was going on. Parkinson’s disease has affected his memory and balance. Add that to the hearing loss and he sometimes gets confused. I needn’t have worried. He spoke briefly, with dignity and a catch in his voice. A hero.

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