Letters About Literature: Sharon M. Draper

Dear Mrs. Draper,

I believe that your book changed my life. It helped expand my worldviews and instill empathy in me that seems rare in today’s discourse. I came across Out of My Mind in fourth grade, already having read the rest of the assigned material. Though I was in 4th grade, I was in a bit of a rut. I was tired of the books that were being shoved down my throat constantly and I needed something new. The minimalistic blue cover caught my eye and I was immediately smitten. Something about the first few pages told me that the book was destined for me.

I had never read a book whose main character was disabled. This is an injustice on many accounts; however, I am very lucky to have read your book when I did. I was young, and impressionable, and though I do not believe that young children can properly understand all facets of a character and a story, it impacted me deeply. I was being exposed to a story unlike something I had seen before. Melody was just like me- she was driven, smart, and funny; but she was different. I was shown that people do not   need to function like you to be just like you.

I wanted more than anything to yell at people who mistreated her. I believe Out of My Mind was my first true introduction to inequality and disadvantages inherent within “the system”. Even as a small child, I wanted to do something about it. I wanted to improve our world and break down the barriers of stereotype and misunderstanding. This desire has stuck with me throughout my life, has shaped my decisions, and has improved my empathy skills greatly.

Empathy and desire for positive change is a learned idea, and I believe Out of my Mind gave this to me. Combined with a teaching home environment, this book improved my ability and desire to relate to people. I was raised in a predominantly white town. I do not believe I was properly exposed to a tangible diverse environment. However, through literature, movies, and other forms of media, this issue was remedied.

It is of the utmost importance that books (and other forms of media) are made with the intention to teach; to create a citizenry that this country can be proud of. Maybe this was not your intention. Maybe you really only wanted to share a story about a unique girl who beat the odds and rolled with the punches. Out of My Mind was so much more than that for me and my family. Thank you for this book and the endless contributions it made to my life.





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