I gave this speech to accept the Ezra Jack Keats Award on May 10th, 2007 at a lovely reception at the Donnell Branch NY Public Library before it closed in 2008. —kb
Ezra Jack Keats Award Speech:
“One day, years ago while I was cleaning, I threw away a sweater; an old woolen sweater with paint splatters and holes. My husband rescued the sweater and said that it had been his father’s sweater. I thought of him as a boy in Iran and his father giving him the sweater, and I thought of him wearing that sweater through hard times there and I thought of him wearing that sweater through hard times here. That sweet and fragile connection to Iran led to Mystery Bottle.
Mystery Bottle is a story about a connection, a family connection that overcomes borders, politics and distance. And The family is many families and The family is my family. And The boy is my son Bailey. And the grandfather he visits in Iran is my husband’s father who lives in Tehran. ...And As my children grow I witness incredible moments; like the moment when Bailey carefully labeled his rock collection, Or in the winter; watching them collect icicles off the bumpers of cars or the moment when I told Auden that grandpa sends her a kiss and she asked is that with his teeth or without. And I wish my parents were here to share these moments and I wish my husband’s parents were here to share these moments.
And what do my children miss of the ancient culture that my husband came from. A culture that is just beyond my reach. A culture I know only through my husband’s memories and through the pieces that have found their way here; the floral smell of basmati rice or the bitter taste of limes in stew, saffron flavored rock candy, pistachios in nougats infused with rose water, the sound of poetry in Farsi, the worn paint splattered sweater given to a boy by his father decades ago.
I hope we can find those connections that are meaningful to us. Connections that transcend time, place, physical and cultural barriers. Maybe we will find them through a plane ticket, a letter, an old sweater or a book.
Thank you so very much.” —Kristen Balouch