It was middle school, eighth grade, when a sheltered 13-year-old boy suddenly found himself immersed in an unfamiliar world, guided by a girl who wasn’t much older, a girl on the verge of leading a religious movement.
At first glance, it might appear as if all they had in common was age, but there was more. They were both growing up in religious households — she a Baptist in a walled community outside of Los Angeles, he a Muslim in suburban Maryland. And they shared a burning desire to understand the constantly evolving, confusing world they occupied.
The boy was me. The girl, Lauren Oya Olamina, is, of course, the main character in Octavia Butler’s classic science fiction novel Parable of the Sower. We were introduced by an adventurous middle school English teacher who assigned the book to my class.