About The Luna Moth Papers
Shortly after graduating from high school, David Cavagnaro began a correspondence with his 1957 high school freshman English teacher, Katherine Martin. Thus began a 20-year sojourn of mutual mirroring of life lessons, personal philosophies, and creative experience that was influenced by everything from the worldly — the tumultuous 1960s, the tragedy of the Vietnam War, David’s conscientious objector appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, crisis in education, the Civil Rights Movement, the drug years, and the moon landing — to the very personal. David was in and out of marriages (which Kay already had been). They were both writing books. Relationships, raising children, evaluating life styles, the process of aging, the loss of loved ones, and especially sharing their creative lives, all became grist for their mutual mill.
At the end of their correspondence, Kay way 76, looking back over a life, the same age David is now, doing the same, exploring also his own life experience with the written word itself. For them both, this was a “love affair” of the most noble kind, a sharing of words of the heart, a full-circle inter-generational meeting of the heart, mind, and spirit.
Reviews of The Luna Moth Papers
Book review by Michelle Jacobs:
“There is something powerfully archaeological about looking back over a life.”
Cavagnaro chronicles the decades-long correspondence with his high school freshman English teacher beginning shortly after graduation in 1964. At the time, he is twenty-one, and she is fifty-six and nearing retirement. Through letters, she offers encouragement for his writing and educational pursuits and is delighted to share her own professional and familial accomplishments. Together, their lives in letters illuminate the cultural upheaval of the sixties and the turbulence of the seventies and the Vietnam War. Their individual lives, relationships, and ambitions are also explored through letters and added exposition from Cavagnaro.
This memoir reminds readers that, although life is fleeting, they still have the power to connect with people through commitment and outreach. The letters are a wonderful archive of two lives entwined through education, a love for words, and writing. Cavagnaro pays homage to the enduring legacy of a teacher’s impact and influence on a student’s life. The result is an intergenerational account of two people supporting each other from afar. The letters are vibrant and layered with experiences and insight about a range of topics, both personal and communal. These are two people in conversation with one another while pursuing their passions and ambitions and taking in the world around them with joyful meditation.
Letter writing may be a lost form in the digital age, but this book will inspire readers to reach out across space and time to perhaps connect with a like-minded person from the past. This act of writing to another allows one to reflect and contemplate one’s life and invites another into a unique kind of companionship.
Book review by Jack Chambers:
No matter what path you take in life, or what career you find yourself in, there is always someone in our life who becomes a figurehead of sorts, an inspiring voice of change that puts us on a new path, whether it is for the better or worse. For many, that inspiration can come through their school years, as a beloved teacher speaks to you like no other teacher before, and not only imparts scholarly wisdom but life lessons which make you grow as both an academic and a person.
In author David Cavagnaro’s The Luna Moth Papers: Mirrors For One Another in Real Time: A 20-Year Exchange of Letters With My English Teacher, the author shares a two-decades long exchange between himself and the high school English teacher who inspired him. Keeping a correspondence together for several years, both he and his teacher would experience life and the changing events to come, from the chaos of the 1960s to the harrowing Vietnam War, the education crisis, the moon landing and more. They also shared personal experiences together, from failed marriages and becoming parents, to writing and going through the aging process, and through it all, a mutual respect and love grew which showed the power of friendship and heart that can grow between two people.
The author does a wonderful job of immediately putting into perspective the inspiration behind the bond that would form between himself and his teacher Katheryn, and is able to balance the unique writing style of sharing hand-written letters with the reader and infusing memoir-style storytelling throughout each chapter. The images help to put faces to the names, but the exchange between the author and his teacher allows the reader to feel immersed into their experiences and memories. Each person taking on a life of their own on the page and delivering a story of relatability and communication remains rare to find among students and teachers in this day and age. The way the author is able to take readers through time and history – essentially as each chapter explores not only personal moments in the author and his teacher’s lives – but the world events which were playing out around them was incredible, and make the book very compelling.
This is the perfect read for those who enjoy non-fiction books, especially those who enjoy memoirs, personal correspondence and exchanges, and personal relationship stories. The connection between the author and the teacher who inspired him was engaging to say the least, and the way the author was able to relate to and gain insight from Katheryn was so moving to see come to life so naturally during their exchanges with one another. To see history move through their eyes and their perspectives was so incredible, and kept this reader invested as their story progresses.
Memorable, heartfelt, and insightful, author David Cavagnaro’s The Luna Moth Papers: Mirrors For One Another in Real Time: A 20-Year Exchange of Letters With My English Teacher is a must-read book. The flow which develops between David and Katheryn, as well as the chapter breaks allowing readers to get comfortable to the era of these letters and the experiences shared between these two people, and of course the heartfelt connection that forms between them both, inspires and draws out the emotional pull of the author’s narrative for the reader. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!