“Before you can be anything, you have to be yourself. That’s the hardest thing to find.” -E.L. Konigsburg
E.L. Konigsburg passed away April 20, 2013. She was remarkable. The first person in her family to go to college, she studied chemistry and went on to pursue a masters degree, then realized she had “the mind for chemistry but not the temperament.” So she went on to teach science at a girl’s school in Florida, take art classes while her children were in school, and write stories that reflect their experiences growing up.
I have never run away from home to hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but as a young reader, I felt that Konigsburg was writing to me and for me. She understood the excitement and distinction of having a secret of your very own, and the charm of swimming after-hours in a fountain for coins. She captured that conflicting sense of wanting to belong and longing to be accepted as an individual. And she offered us reassurance that outsiders like Noah, Ethan, Fiona, and Julian can find friendship without relinquishing their sense of self. It’s been a privilege to have Konigsburg’s voice influence my childhood. Her sage words still resonate today.
“The adventure is over. Everything gets over, and nothing is ever enough. Except the part you carry with you. It’s the same as going on a vacation. Some people spend all their time on a vacation taking pictures so that when they get home they can show their friends evidence that they had a good time. They don’t pause to let the vacation enter inside of them and take that home.”
― E.L. Konigsburg, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler