As the Iran hostage crisis reached its climax in the second half of 1980, Americans wondered and worried about the fate of the fifty-two diplomats still missing and captive. People followed the story through TV news reports, concerned for those men and women and for what it meant for the United States. No one, however, kept tighter watch on the situation than my older brother, John, then seven. He too listened closely to the anchors’ reports about what might be the fate of the fifty-two Iranian ostriches. Whether or not anyone corrected John’s hearing blip remains debated, but if any attempt was made, it was ignored. John had already crafted the fascinating, mystifying, somewhat magical and very worrying image of long-necked birds locked somewhere deep within the Middle East and desperately wanting to get out. And so as America breathed a sigh of relief when the hostages were finally brought home in January 1981, John was bewildered at the images before him. What about the ostriches?
A child’s imagination animates Barry Gifford’s “The Age of Fable.” Fascinated at the thought of the single-breasted female Amazon warriors of Homer’s The Iliad, young Roy paints his own image of their war-torn world. But Roy’s interest doesn’t stop at myth. He finds stories in the world around him too, specifically in China’s treatment of women, so vastly different from that portrayed in Homer. The imaginative blending of fantasy and reality makes fable—kernels of truth set amid make-believe.