If you had a chance–and wrote a book–whom would you dedicate it to?
This is a thought-provoking question as dedications encode the writer’s ethos, just as an epigraph encodes a book or a poem’s kernel (recall the single-sentence epigraph in Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” If they give you a ruled paper, write the other way).
The significance of a dedication has been brought to light in reference to the singer–from the 1990s band Hole–Patty Schemel’s memoir, “Hit So Hard: A Memoir.” The dedication says, “To Beatrice, when she is older.”
The object of the dedication is someone who is yet to be the reader of the book. So, the dedication is temporally precocious, one might say.
Another dedication that flirts with time stands out in my mind. Gloria Steinem dedicates her 2015 memoir, “My Life on the Road,” to an individual, one Dr. Sharpe:
THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED TO
Dr. John Sharpe of London, who in 1957, a decade before physicians in England could legally perform an abortion for any reason other than the health of the woman, took the considerable risk of referring for an abortion a twenty-two-year-old American on her way to India.
Knowing only that she had broken an engagement at home to seek an unknown fate, he said, “You must promise me two things. First, you will not tell anyone my name. Second, you will do what you want to do with your life.”
Dear Dr. Sharpe, I believe you, who knew the law was unjust, would not mind if I say this so long after your death:
I’ve done the best I could with my life.
This book is for you.
Were you to write a book about your life, would you dedicate it to your coterie of familiars or to someone you have carried in your mind for years, as an shaper of your ideology?