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Thankful Feature special guest author Alma Katsu

Submitted by on November 22, 2011 – 9:00 am9 Comments

Learning To Be Thankful

I would like to think that nowadays we live in more gracious times. Generally speaking, I think parents do a better job raising their children, and because of this, we have a generation of young adults who are more thoughtful than the generations that came before them. They may have other faults, but by-and-large, they seem appreciative whenever a stranger does something nice for them (but not when their parents do something for them. I wouldn’t go that far out on a limb.)

Obviously, this was not true for my generation. I was raised by immigrant parents in a town full of immigrant families—in other words, I grew up around people who were used to getting nothing from nobody. You were brought up to expect to work very hard for little return and to be suspicious if someone offered to help you. This was compounded by the fact that I grew up in the Boston area, which is notoriously cheerless. Think of author Dennis Lehane and his gritty, bleak novels.

On top of this, I was raised a Roman Catholic, the sternest and most dour of all the varieties of Catholics. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned from a Baptist friend that you could pray to God in order to get something, for a favor or to pass a test, for instance. As a child, I was told that the only acceptable thing to pray for was not to end up in the fiery pits of hell for the terrible things that you, a nine-year old, did. The only thing to be thankful for was that God hadn’t seen fit to strike you dead that day (though there was always tomorrow.)

So, you can imagine, it’s hard to grow up to be a thankful person when you basically have been told there’s little to be grateful for.

This doesn’t mean I didn’t try to be helpful, because I did, in that eager-to-please way children have. I just didn’t expect anyone to be appreciative (and that way, you won’t be disappointed.)

All this changed a few years ago when my dearest wish came true. I’d grown up wanting to be a writer and, in particular, wanting to write fiction. It didn’t take long for me to realize this was an impossibility. The odds of getting a novel published were a bazillion to one, and getting worse every day. So I got a job, and then job became a career, and I abandoned my dream of becoming a published writer. Only I didn’t: after a long hiatus, I came back never expecting to write a salable book, but I did.

That’s when I learned how generous people are. Here I was, with my dream-come-true, and people were willing to help me out even though nobody has made their dream come true. At book events, when I tell people that I am one of the luckiest people I know to have gotten my hearts’ desire, they actually smile for me. They’re happy for me. People at the publishing house go the extra mile for me and the book, though they don’t have to. Book bloggers (like the Paperback Dolls) take the time to write thoughtful reviews and post them, diligently tweet them. Book store owners let me tell them about the book, maybe let me do an event at their shop. Other authors have been tremendously generous, blurbing the book or mentioning it at their events, offering me advice. And of course, there are my family members and friends, who have each bought at least a dozen copies of it to make my sales look good. Complete strangers write to tell me how much they enjoyed the book.

No one has to do any of these things. And why should they? They’re busy, they’re stressed, they’re not as flush with cash as they’d like to be. They have a million things clamoring for their attention, or worse, they have sorrows and worries I can’t begin to guess at. And yet, because they’re generous of spirit and large-hearted, they have chosen to do these things for me.

For which I am astounded, and tremendously grateful.


Alma Katsu is the author of The Taker, a suspenseful novel set in rather Puritanical times in New England, but with no actual Pilgrims in it.

Paperback Dolls is made up of women from different parts of the world, with different backgrounds, different tastes and beliefs that were brought together through a love of reading. We like to think of ourselves as a cyber version of "The View" that focuses on books, authors, and reading. We are proof positive that one common love can unite the most opposite of people and form lasting friendships that introduce other ways of life and perspectives to each other.
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