Mae Jemison decided what she wanted to be when she was five years old in 1961. “I’m going to be a scientist,” she told her kindergarten teacher. That wasn’t the answer her teacher expected from a small, skinny black girl. But that teacher didn’t know Mae very well. She didn’t know that Mae would indeed become a scientist — and a doctor, and a Peace Corps medical officer, and the first black woman astronaut. Of course, Mae herself didn’t know all that either, but she did know she wanted to find out how things worked, and why. What made the stars glitter? Why did people on the other side of the world see different ones? How was the earth made, and why did the dinosaurs disappear?
Neither Mae nor her teacher realized it, but Mae’s life turned a corner and set off in a new direction that day. Events that change our lives don’t always come like a hurricane, sweeping everything before it. Sometimes they begin subtly, like a puff of wind, or a five-year-old’s statement of purpose. But that subtle change can send life off in a new direction, and that little girl becomes an astronaut instead of a professional dancer, a doctor instead of an architect, a scientist instead of a fashion designer.
And what about you? What are the currents in your own life? Which way does the wind blow for you? What are the clues, the hints, about your life and who you will become? Let Mae tell you about some of the turning points in her life and perhaps help you get a glimpse of what might lie ahead for you.
This Booktalk was written by librarian and booktalking expert Joni R. Bodart