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Letters About Literature National Winners 2009

National Winner, Level 1: Taaja Draughn

Dear Sharon Draper,

Thank you for writing Forged By Fire and understanding what I'm going through. My father departed from me when I was 2 years old. I am hurt by his absence every day.

I never had father- to- daughter talks like my girlfriends. Some girls can call their dad in times of need. They have their fathers to give them a hug and say "Everything's going to be ok." But not me. Instead, my mama and I would have those talks. Even though my mama tries, I still feel like there's something missing. While Mama tries to comfort me, deep down I want my dad to be the one to tell me how to handle so-called friends and peer pressure.

One day my mama was talking to me about one of your books. Honestly, I didn't think I would like them but I went to the library and checked one out—Forged by Fire. After reading the first two chapters, I just couldn't keep my hands off of it. I was scared for Gerald when his house was on fire and he was left there alone. I was mad at Jordan because Gerald's aunt Queen died at the hospital and all he cared about was the baseball game.

As I got deeper into the book my dad popped into my head. When I am able to visit my dad, we don't have much time to spend together and very little privacy. So, we don't get to finish our conversations or I can't say what I want because someone may be listening. After our visits, my dad will send me a letter reminiscing on our chat. Or he may have some questions to ask me about something I said. My dad's letters make me feel comfortable and happy. To me, his letters show that he was listening and he cares. Sometimes, he will send me "just thinking about you cards" and Bible verses he wants me to memorize.

When I finally finished your book I understood the meaning of forgive and forget. Forgive means to apologize. Forget means to move on with your life. I used find it hard to forgive my dad, then forget what he has done (or is unable to do). Forged by Fire taught me to release old pain because I will miss out on my dad's love. Gerald and I couldn't release old pain because we were hurt so badly in the past. At last we see there is a way to throw out our old pain and finally forgive and forget. I finally understand that love can do this.

That's why I'm going to forgive and forget that my father can't be around in my life because he's been in prison for the last nine years. Thank you for understanding,

Taaja Draughn