The dictionary says sultry means to be hot with passion or to be capable of exciting strong sexual desire. But sultry can also mean sweltering or torrid.
Have you ever heard a word that reminds you of a certain time and place, almost like a Déjà vu? Whenever I hear the word sultry it reminds of only one thing – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I know; it’s a silly analogy. Most of the time sultry should remind one of steamed heat or perhaps conjure an image of Marilyn Monroe standing over a street vent, her short skirt billowing about her.
Not me. When I hear the word sultry I’m taken on a journey back to my childhood, seventh grade to be exact. That year, my teacher placed a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird on my desk with a simple note, “Read this. I hope it opens many doors for you.”
At the time, I thought her note strange, but then Miss Holmquist was an oddity. (Picture a short, stout woman with flabby upper arms that jiggled when she worked the chalkboard). Still, the woman piqued my interest with her odd message. How could books open doors? Why did I want to read about an old lawyer in a southern state I knew nothing about? And, what’s more, what kind of a man would name his children Jem and Scout?
I took the book home and several days passed before I opened it and read the first line, "When he was thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow." Hmm, this Ms. Harper Lee, whoever she is, has my attention now,” I said aloud. Who is Jem and how did he break his arm?
From that moment I was hooked – mesmerized over the story, in awe over the character names, Boo Radley, Aunt Avery, Dill, Atticus, Calpurnia, and even the white girl who was supposedly raped, Mayella. I’m still in awe of the plot, the personalities, and the vivid neighborhood descriptions.
So why does the word “sultry” remind me of To Kill a Mockingbird? Because for the first time in my life I realized that by simply turning pages, I felt the sultry heat, tasted the prejudice and agonized over the hatred between black and white.
“So what did you discover in this book?” Miss Holmquist asked me two weeks later. I didn’t know where to begin. Should I tell her about the rollercoaster of emotions I went through while reading? Do I dare ask her why the jury convicted Tom even though I prayed they wouldn’t? Or maybe I should tell her how brave Scout was when she diffused an explosive situation between Atticus and the old-timers of the town with a simple, “Hey there, Mr. Ewell, how’s your boy, Henry doing?”
I didn’t ask her any of those things, but I did tell her about every sentiment I felt. Mostly I told her about the bitter taste in my mouth over a word called prejudice, and I told her I felt the hot, sultry sun of Maycomb County.
Some days, I wish I could go back to 7th grade and ask Miss Holmquist if she knew one day To Kill a Mockingbird would be one of the best-loved stories of all time, that the novel would earn many distinctions since its original publication in 1960. I’d ask her if she thought it would win the Pulitzer Prize and be translated into more than forty languages. And, “Miss Holmquist, do you think it will sell more than thirty million copies worldwide, and will it be made into an enormously popular movie?”
I think Miss Holmquist would have said, “Yes, I do think Miss Lee’s novel will achieve all those things and more, but the most important thing, Keta, To Kill a Mockingbird will transport you to the sultry heat of the deep south; take you to places you never dreamed existed.”
And I would say, “Thank you, Miss Holmquist.”
~ ~ ~
Keta Diablo is multi-published in both Indie and traditional. She writes for Books We Love Spice and Decadent Publishing. Her latest paranormal shifter, Where The Rain Is Made, was nominated for a Bookie Award by Authors After Dark in the BEST enovel category.
You can find Keta here on the Net:
Amazon Author Page (all her books are listed here): http://amzn.to/nOCqob
Author home (sign up for her newsletter here): http://www.ketadiablo.com
Keta’s Keep Romance Blog (follow): http://ketaskeep.blogspot.com
Watch for LAND OF FALLING STARS, an erotic romance historical coming to a Kindle and a Nook near you October 5th.
Cover art for Land of Falling Stars here with LINK HERE: http://amzn.to/nOCqob