I Talked about Castles Almost Nine Times Today.

Guys, teaching is not a gravy job.  When I have time to read, which is rare, I’ve been reading things from the waiting list.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wall

This week I finished The Glass Castle and I’m forty pages away from finishing Persepolis.  Honestly, I should be reading Persepolis right now instead of typing this goofed-up blog.   Don’t worry I’ll be cuddling into my bed in just a short time to read the finishing forty pages and remind myself that the War in Iraq is not just America’s story of terrorism, but a history of change, revolution and backlash.

Today, I taught my kids about fences and walls.  It was a literal and figurative activity.  Why do we put up literal fences?  To keep people out, or keep them in.  To have privacy, to protect what’s ours. Why do we put up fences around our hearts or minds?  The same reasons.  You protect your heart whether the Bible told you so, or you learned to from your past.

I talked about moats in almost every period.  It sounded like this, “I know you all have seen a Disney movie, what kind of fences do Kings have to protect the Princess?…In Sleeping Beauty, it’s a briar patch, but in most fairytales, it’s a moat.”  All day I was thinking about The Glass Castle and all these dreams that little girls have.  I think little girl’s learn dreams from their daddies, who read to them from the soft creep of a rocking chair or squeeze into their small two-bit beds just to have storytime.


I didn’t realize until this moment that The Glass Castle was about a childhood, but it was also about a daugther’s dreams.  The Glass Castle is really the story of Wall wanting to save her father, who is the head of her family.   She so badly wanted to save her father, and while her dream when she was under seven was this glass castle that he promised, her dream as an adult was the glass castle of her family not breaking.  I really loved how she was the one always sticking up for her father and when she did have the chance to prove her “strength” in the feminist way, she did what her mother had done her whole life, kept giving him money.    Trying to save her dad and prove her belief in him didn’t change him, but it changed her.   I think my father’s response to my dreams has changed my dreams and me as well.

The Glass Castle is every little girl’s dream when she stares at her toes skipping past the cracks in the sidewalk.  The glass castle is a dream that’s so immaculate it’s beyond the Disney version where the fields never sour and the grass never dries brown from root to tip, but, it’s still this breakable fragile thing.  The dream is so easily shattered; one bad storm, one open wound, one hard fall.  How heavy it is to carry; this dream made of glass, hair bows, and heartbeats.

Little Girl’s Dream (Mosiac by Shannon Leigh Saunders)

When I was nine…or eleven…I told my dad that when I published my first bestseller I would buy him a Lexus.  It would be whatever kind of Lexus he wanted.  I saw him watch the commercial for years and talk about how sleek the car looked, how nice the tan seats shined.  I told him he’d just have to wait until I was twenty-two and by then I’d have my first book out and all would be golden.  The pages would be creased and inked with my name, America’s fingerprint smudges, and a Harper Perennial editor.  I would give him the first review copy because he was always the one to review my stories, even when he said they were too flowery.   (I can be fierce when it comes to constructive criticism).  I’m twenty-four and I haven’t published a book, but I still believe in that dream as much for myself as for my father.

I think Jeannette Walls knew her father wanted her to go to college, to escape Little Hobart Street and the half-yellow house that shines on the hill even though it’s crumbling and slumped.  I think she knew that her father believed in her even when she couldn’t believe in him.  This book was so moving, not because of the success of the children regardless of their dysfunctional upbringing, but the success of their eclectic (and sometimes dangerous) upbringing on their character and their growing dreams.

Father & Daughter (Flickr Pool)

You know from the beginning that Mr. Wall is a a man of deep knowledge, but how he chose to share it with the world was different from what the world wanted to hear.  Sometimes we look at people and think, “What an idiot,” or “How disgusting” or “You’re the lowest of the earth” instead of thinking about their dreams.  I bet they have dreams.  I bet they still keep them in a pocket, or a folder in the creased pocked of their pillow.  I bet sometimes they take it out and see how it tastes, how much they could do with it now that they’re older and wiser, how many new dreams they have and how many dreams they’ve just let go like a child’s kite into the blue panel of sky.  It kind of reminds of THE BFG.  He kept our dreams in glass jars, like mason jars on a shelf and took them out to tickle them.

I might have replaced that childhood castle with a book, but I still carry the glass around with me, shaped like a numbered page in the palm of my hand.

22 thoughts on “I Talked about Castles Almost Nine Times Today.

  1. gajenn says:

    I have yet to read this book but it’s on my *ridiculously long* list of To Be Reads. I did read Persopolis (for a gender studies class actually!) and I thought it was incredible. Hope you enjoy it as well!

    • Cassie says:

      Oh that’s so cool that you studied it in gender studies. What did you talk about? I’m sure a ton, but I’m really interested. You have to read The Glass Castle! It’s one of those memoirs that doesn’t drag.

      • gajenn says:

        From what I recall (it’s been 2 years since that class), we discussed roles of Middle Eastern women, traditional and otherwise – also how the impact of the visualness of the book affected the story. I know there was more but it’s been too long with too many other classes in between – I remember I read it all in one sitting because I was entranced. :)

      • Cassie says:

        That would definitely be an interesting conversation. I was one class away from minoring in women’s studies and I should have. I loved those classes.

  2. angela says:

    Lovely post, Cassie. I had the fortune of hearing Ms. Walls in person last year. I’ve never read GC or Horses despite the many who told me I HAD to read GC. After hearing Walls, I didn’t feel the need to since she covered so much of the book. A delightful woman, a fabulous speaker… and, as you know, one hell of a life!

    Persepolis– I’m on a bit of a GN kick, it is on my list, hope you blog about it :)

    (sidebar…came across another book with cover art by Kalman (Conversations with Kafka) and mentioned her to my co-worker friend whom I thought knew Kalman, only to find out I had the story WAY wrong (I posted on your blog post re: Kalman). It seems the friend is actually Snicket’s (what is his real name? he uses with the YA book you blogged about) Mother! not Kalman. You probably don’t care, but I hate to give misinformation–ugh! I shall not be one of those writers!)

    • Cassie says:

      I love that you heard her speak. It would be great to hear those stories from her own mouth. I do love Snickett and so does my nephew, so that’s totally fine! :)

  3. mishmishiyya says:

    You have such a way with words, Cassie. I will tell you a secret: I don’t read many blog posts all the way through. Yours are the exception to the rule– always a pleasure to read. Just waiting for the book now. ;-)

  4. Bea says:

    An elephant on a ball?!, good luck with that. Just know that a few balls have to drop sometime. It’s nature, and it’s OK. Meanwhile, I just love the way you balance!

  5. Leah says:

    I loved The Glass Castle. One of my favorite books! I read her other book, Half Broke Horses, a story about her grandmother. It was equally as fascinating and served as a great prologue to the book. It explained so much about her mother too. I highly recommend it.

    • Cassie says:

      I don’t know if you knew this, but I have a creepy fascination with learning about other people’s grandparents because I lost my grandparent’s when I was young. My one grandmother had a stroke when I was 11 and was only able to say “do-do-do” when she spoke. I’m always reading something with a really important grandparent. I am SO EXCITED that she wrote about her grandmother. I’m going to buy this book right now! : ) YAY!


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