This morning when I found out Kurt Vonnegut had died I was not only deeply saddened, but I knew how this news would effect one of his biggest fans, my 20 year old son.
I confess I enjoyed listening to Vonnegut's interviews but I never read his books. In fact up until 2 years ago I don't think we had any book of his but "Slaughter House Five." That was until a summer reading course my son took.
My eldest son hadn't been doing well in school. A kid with enormous potential, who preferred to watch the History Channel, the Discovery Channel and anything to do with building, fixing and restoring cars, he just couldn't seem to put it together for school. Due to his dyslexia he was a very slow reader but refused to have an IEP done because he didn't want to be labeled a "Sped."
He was a wiz in auto shop, loved history, but got bad grades because he'd "forget" to hand in his homework. Ditto for psychology. As the years went on he went from wanting to go to college and become a history teacher, to wanting to go to trade school and become a mechanic (we were fine with this) to not having a clue or seemingly even caring how he ended up.
That was until the summer before his senior year and a reading class he took that was sponsered by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. All of a sudden he was reading faster, comprehending and enjoying what he was reading. Among the samples that they read in class and for class was Vonnegut. He was hooked. He read more and more, and most of the books he read were Vonnegut.
He returned for his last year in high school and his preformance in his classes stunned everyone. Here was the student everyone knew was in there, but no one seemed to have the ability to draw out. Here was someone passionate about learning, forming and sharing well thought out ideas. Teachers who had had him before in their class were both over joyed at this new engaged person entering their classroom, and lamenting that he hadn't been this way for his entire high school career.
He's now in community college working to cancel his bad high school record so that he can go on to a four year university. His plans/his dreams, include not one but two PhDs in History and Sociology. His step-Dad, his grandparents and I could only be happier if he accomplishes all his dreams, but he is off to a good start.
And all it took was one summer reading class and an author named Kurt Vonnegut.
For that Mr. Vonnegut, I thank you.
Side note: My son had hoped to one day met Kurt Vonnegut, he was and is deeplyu saddened by this news. In one of his recent college papers, that he finished this week, he was quoting Slaughter House Five. His dog eared, slightly rumpled copy is sitting here at my computer.
Update: I just found out that it is my middle son (14 years old) who is reading Slaughter House Five.