I got to work early this morning so that I could pick up a van. Today, we had a special guest on base, and I didn’t want her to feel cramped in my little lime green Nissan March. We have had only a few authors in our DoDEA schools in Japan in the four years that I’ve been here, and this is the first that was coming for a high school.
I heard Ruta speak at ALAN a couple of years ago. She was part of a panel and only had a few moments, but it only takes a few moments to realize what a smart, vibrant, and kind person she is. The teachers at the school on base had been working to expose the students to Between Shades of Gray, which I read a couple of years ago after my friend sent me an ARC. It’s a very different view of the some of the horrors of WWII – not one of the stories we usually hear about. I was excited to hear her speak about what the Lithuanians endured, and to hear her share this story with the students.
She started the morning speaking to a large group for about 40 minutes. At the end of that time, even though there were tears in my eyes and running down my cheeks (which, honestly, I hate such public displays of emotion), I didn’t want her to stop. I listened to her speak to 4 other smaller groups and I didn’t get tired of it.
Ruta is a rock star, a storyteller, a reporter, and your best friend all rolled into one. Today I learned that she spent twenty years managing Lit and Steve Vai (as well as other musical artists). She has worked on the music for video games (Halo, for example). She is a consultant for The Voice. AND she has written two pretty amazing YA novels, both historical fiction. And even with this impressive resume, she makes every person she speaks with feel special and important and full of potential. She expresses genuine interest in everyone, and she speaks to people as if she feels lucky to have the honor to speak with them. I suppose I really couldn’t have been more impressed.
If you haven’t read Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy, I highly recommend them. And if you ever have the opportunity to meet her or have her speak to your students, don’t pass it up. You won’t be sorry!