Because Krents wrote To Race the Wind when he was only twenty-five years old, he captures the way that life seems to children and, simultaneously, the more mature view of a young man who has come to understand the depth of his family’s support. He looks closely at the loneliness of his youth and writes of even the most dismal experiences with candor and humor. For example, when Ginny Korman, one of his childhood playmates, told him that she had argued for his acceptance into her gang, she related to him what she told her friends: “Look, I know that Harold talks too much. I know he tries too hard to be friendly, and that he’ll make the summer miserable for us if we let him. ” Nevertheless, Ginny gained admission for Krents into her gang because her mother had pressured her. Even knowing Ginny’s motives, however, Krents was pleased to be included. The author, in several scenes of this type, re-creates the candid dealings of young people with one another.
Initially, Krents portrays his family as a sort of cultural ideal, a family that can scarcely live up to its own reputation for perfection. Several of Krents’s dominant stated themes come from his parents. For example, he credits his parents, especially his mother, with inspiring his love of independence. Mrs. Krents said of her son to her two sisters, “I not only want him to be independent, but I want him to love being that way.” Krents states, at one point, that he would rather fall down a manhole than to be dependent, to walk around with his arms extended ahead of him for protec-tion. (The next day, he fell down a manhole.) He also praises his mother for having the tenacity to drive him to learn, and he praises his father for having patience and good humor. Krents liked even his father’s snoring. It was Krents’s parents who repeatedly told him, “Bitterness never accomplishes anything; don’t surrender to it, Harold.” Not until almost halfway through the...
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Although To Race the Wind is currently out of print, it is available in many librar-ies. The appeals of the book to a youthful audience are many. Krents’s youth is one of those rare and uplifting success stories of young people who defy the odds to reach their goals. His story is specific in the sense that it enlightens readers about blindness, but it is universal in the sense that it speaks honestly about the emotions of youth. Krents upholds a system of values that young people can easily recognize and with which they can identify; the choices that Krents makes have easily understood consequences. Finally, just as Leonard Gershe was inspired by Krents to write Butterflies Are Free, young readers will experience that same inspiration when they read To Race the Wind.
To Race the Wind is more than a variation of Helen Keller’s The Story of My Life (1903). Krents, unlike Keller, is “every child.” He took the sometimes painful, often lonely path to adulthood, but—perhaps because he had to feel his way along the path—his story can guide younger readers. It can alleviate the fears and insecurities and misgivings of those youths who feel that they are outsiders. They will discover not only that the path has been traveled before but also that such paths can lead to happier times. Despite the limited use of mild obscenities, Krents’s autobiography should be an accessible and pleasurable reading experience for all young adult readers.