The Best Gift

We must believe in our souls that we are somebody, that we are significant, that we are worthful, and we must walk the streets of life every day with this sense of dignity and this sense of somebody-ness.” In Colson Whitehead’s seventh novel, The Nickel Boys (Doubleday, 2019), the protagonist, Elwood Curtis, replays these powerful words by Martin Luther King Jr. from a record album he received as a young boy in the early 1960s, which he considers “the best gift of his life.” Throughout the book Elwood repeatedly refers to King’s words as a source of guidance, inspiration, and morality. Write a short story in which your main character is similarly inspired by an important historical figure’s words—words of wisdom written or spoken by an artist, author, or activist. How did your character first come across these words? Are they comforting or provocative? Does the meaning or significance of the words change over time as the character evolves?