Anyone Can Fly

tar_beach

“…It’s very easy, anyone can fly. All you need is somewhere to go that you can’t get to any other way. The next thing you know, you’re flying among the stars.”

–Cassie Lou Lightfoot in Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold

Faith Ringgold, a prominent and accomplished American folk artist, published Tar Beach the year after I was born, and my parents both read it to me when I was child. The large, striking illustrations always stuck with me–especially, for some reason, the whitish-pink ice cream the family eats in the middle of the story–but the book also grabbed me because the main character coincidentally has the same first name (Cassie) and middle name (Lou) as me.

I rediscovered the book earlier this year in one of my literacy teaching courses, and I realized with some vindication that I not only share a name with Cassie Lou Lightfoot, but am now living in the same city as her, near her neighborhood of Harlem. The things that she flies over–the Washington Bridge, the lights of the city–are now part of my landscape too, just as I always dreamed since I was cognizant enough to know what New York City was and know where it was I wanted to fly to in the world.

It’s true, it seems, that when you have somewhere to go, you can fly.