Recently, I learned about The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison. My initial interest was focused on the letter he wrote to an old Tuskegee classmate about living in Dayton, Ohio after his mother passed away. Facing adversity for Ellison was not new, but during this particular time, the challenges of parenting a little brother, housing, and gainful employment required a level of responsibility that he admits that he was not ready for. I also discovered that Ellison corresponded with Richard Wright, and he acknowledges that life after his mother’s death marked his maturation into manhood.
Although my journey with Ellison’s letters is new, I connected with them in several ways. As I am reading the letters he wrote to his mother while away at college, I resonate deeply with those letters because there is something very powerful about the energetic exchange between a parent and child. This unbroken correspondence becomes a gift that allowed him to sustain the relationships with his mother and also share his achievements, pressing needs, desires, and even occasional dalliances without judgment or loss of connection.