That One Book
For every young reader, there’s that one book. For me, it was Durango Street. In Frank Bonham’s gritty young adult novel, an inner city kid named Rufus Henry becomes leader of the Moors, a neighborhood gang. I grew up in a village of 800 people in the woods of northern Pennsylvania, and I couldn’t have had less in common with Rufus. It wasn’t classic literature—it was closer to pulp. But I didn’t care. Bonham’s story of vulnerability, longing, violence, and redemption drew me back again and again.
As a young adult, I went on to study the classics, and then to write stories of my own; I didn’t think about Durango Street for decades. Then I met a talented writer named Lee Durkee, who was living in Montpelier and working at Rivendell Books. I picked up Lee’s novel Rides of the Midway, which includes a reference to Durango Street. And when I asked Lee about it, he didn’t just own up—he raved.
Recently, as teacher in the Franklin County Stories Project, I watched the film Freedom Writers. Can you guess which book a naïve but enthusiastic teacher presents to her class of inner city kids? The enduring power of the written word to excite new imaginations is just one of the reasons Write Mondays exists. —Gary