Acceptance Speech for "Me and Rupert Goody"
To the ladies and gentlemen of the DDD from Barbara O’Connor:
Winning this year’s Dolly Gray Award for my book, ME AND RUPERT GOODY, is one of those good news/bad news situations.
The good news is that I have won this honorable award, and, of course, am thrilled.
The bad news is that it’s being presented in Hawaii and I don’t get to go. Instead, I’m sitting at my laptop in Massachusetts, watching the snow fall and the temperature drop.
But I’ll focus on the good news. First, of course, I must say thank you for honoring my work and for believing it worthy of this recognition. I’m delighted.
I’m sometimes asked why I portrayed Rupert Goody as mentally challenged. Is his retardation necessary to the story? I am also sometimes asked the same question about his race. Why is Rupert black?
To both of those questions I must answer truthfully: I have no idea WHY he is either retarded or black. The simple fact of the matter is that that is how he presented himself to me. That is how he came to me as a person. I had no REASON to make him the way he was. I merely accepted him the way he came to me – and wrote his story as honestly as I knew how. I tried to portray him in such a way that the reader would believe that he could have been real, but, more importantly, so that the reader would learn to accept him as Jennalee did.
Of course, both Rupert’s race and his disability do have an impact on the story – exacerbating Jennalee’s annoyance over his very existence. Just as in real life, Jennalee sometimes found Rupert to be annoying. Frustrating. Downright irritating. She sometimes questioned how and why her beloved Uncle Beau could so easily accept Rupert and his annoying ways. Lucky for Jennalee, Uncle Beau was able to demonstrate his unwavering love, acceptance, and appreciation for Rupert. Jennalee learned by example that Rupert was deserving of both acceptance and respect. She learned by example that often, what’s in a person’s heart is more important than what’s in a person’s head.
While I didn’t set out to teach a lesson, but, merely, to tell a good story, I can still admit that if I’ve helped even one child learn to be more accepting of differences, if I’ve helped even one child grow along with Jennalee, if I’ve shown even one child the inherent worth and dignity of all human beings, then, well, I guess I can say I’ve done a good job.
I didn’t know Dolly Gray. But I’m pleased to learn that she would have liked this award, that she loved books, and that she may have found comfort and a kindred spirit in the character of Rupert Goody. I’m sure Rupert would have been pleased, as well.