In 1960s America, if you were a kid, you went to school. And if you were a high school or college-aged boy, you were assigned a number. And if your number came up, you went, like a Roman gladiator, ready to fight to the death.
Not the happy childhood you expected, huh? What alternatives were there? Young males like Brandon’s father (from Out of Left Field) found it wasn’t an easy choice to make. Avoiding the military draft by fleeing to Canada was a crime, until a 1977 action by President Jimmy Carter.
As I was working on Brandon’s story, I happened to read Linda Pastan’s beautiful poem, “Bread,” in her collection Traveling Light (WW Norton, 2011). The first lines caught me right away: “It seems to be the five stages/of yeast, not grief/you like to write about’/my son says…”
Brandon is a swimmer, and I knew from my own experience that exercise helps with grief—but I wanted to give him a healing, therapeutic activity that he could do on his own. Pastan’s poem offered a connection between Brandon’s bread making and his need for comfort after his dad’s death.
As I researched the experiences of American draft resisters in Canada, I read about the Yellow Ford Truck in Toronto, a place where Americans went to meet each other, to learn about safe places to stay, and to pick up supplies—including fresh bread. What if—my favorite question to ask myself while writing a first draft—what if Brandon’s father baked bread in Canada and passed that skill on to his son? Baking could be something they shared, besides baseball.
When my sons were growing up, I often made all the bread our family ate. I loved the whole process: the magic of live yeast, the way the flour mix changed during kneading, the feeling of the dough as I shaped it into loaves, the smell of fresh baked bread filling the house.
My favorite recipe is the one that Brandon uses in the novel. It’s taken from The Tassajara Bread Book, by Edward Espe Brown, published by Shambala in 1970. My copy is stained and battered but the recipe never fails. I also love a little book that my cousin Jane gave me: The New Book of Favorite Breads from Rose Lane Farm, by Ada Lou Roberts (Dover Publications, 1970). That book taught me the trick of adding ¼ teaspoon of ginger to the yeast and sugar mix at the beginning. It works like a charm.
Out of Left Field hits the road this month. I join the author lineup at Wondermore (formerly The Foundation for Children’s Books) “What’s New?” event Saturday, Nov. 8 at Lesley University.
Wednesday, Nov. 12, an Out of Left Field parent/child reading group at Cambridge Public Library meets this author.
Speaking of “Out of Left Field,” did you know that one of the 2004 championship Red Sox players got sued a year later – by his own team?
Just in time for Halloween, remember one of the scariest moments of Boston’s 2004 season (the dramatic backdrop of Out of Left Field).
Here’s the post-season tale of Curt “Bloody Sock” Schilling!
In Out of Left Field, Brandon loved the 2004 Red Sox. Who would he support in this Sox-less World Series: Royals or Giants? For me…
That’s easy. Royals, for sure. First, like the Sox, they’ve had a long drought since their last Series (though not as long as the Sox’s 86-year drought). Second, they succeeded in spite of being the wild card. Third, the Royals team shows terrific chemistry and an ability to play small ball and win. And finally: they’re in the American League! But others may disagree.
Who would you support, Boston fans?
20th Century babies born to Red Sox fans learned heartache along with their ABCs. Chicago Cubs fans might understand the addictive agony of loving a losing team.
But what if the wish to win it all comes true after decades of waiting? Brandon refers to this dream often in Out of Left Field.
See the curse reversed in 2004 Boston: