Literary Memoir, or My Life in Books (Kind of).
I did not start reading by myself until I was six years old.
It was the summer after kindergarten and almost everyone in my class could read by the end of the year. But don't worry, I still pretended I could read. I remember bringing a book (which will remained unnamed because I can't remember. I was five, okay?! It was pink, that's all I got) to class and "reading" it in front of my whole kindergarten class. And by reading, I mean combining my memory of how the story went when my mom read it to me with looking at the pictures and guessing what was going on in the story. I'm sure it was really close to how the actual story went and my teacher, Mrs. Stewart, probably noticed that I was completely competent and smart, or at least imaginative.
Anyway, the first book I legitimately read was Chicken Little. Okay, fine, it was some easy reader form of the story. But I remember laying with my mom, who had summers off because she taught first grade, on her bed bed in my childhood home and things finally clicking. My mom was probably convinced I was not going to bethe advanced student she had hoped since I couldn't read, couldn'ttie my shoes (mastered that in fourth grade) and did not know right from left (still struggling with that one). I remember the relief of finally being able to connect the sounds with the letters and connect the letters to flowing whole words. I turned the pages, I read the book over and over and over again. I became completely addicted.It lead to harder core books.(Chicken Little...AKA my gateway drug)
Throughout Elementary School, I only remember a few highlights of my reading life. I absolutely, completely, positively hate hate hate hate (to this exact moment) Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. I was supposed to read it and made some stupid drawings about it and it took me like 3 months after the due date to turn in it. I refused to read that book. I actually wondered if it would be possible to sneak into my fifth grade teacher's classroom and write in a grade for that assignment and get away with not doing it. I never actually executed that awful plan, by the way.
I began a love affair with all things Roald Dahl very young. My favorites were The Witches and Matilda. I loved all things supernatural and actually believed myself to be a witch. Along those lines, I really like a book called Midnight Magic by Avi.
One of the last books that sticks out in my mind is a book called Belle Prater's Boy by Ruth White. This book has a touch of mystery and a whole lot of heart. The book centers around the young, cross-eyed, and adorable Woodrow, whose mother had recently gone missing, and his cousin Gypsy. It is a beautiful lesson in the importance of friendship, the loyalty and love of family and not judging a book by its cover. My favorite line occurs when a bully is makingfun of Woodrow's different appearance and Woodrow replies, "'Well, when God was handing out books, I thought he said looks and I said "Give me a funny one."' The complete and uttersweetness of Woodrow is enough to carry this book. So good.
I also lived in the world of Harry Potter at this time, but I think everyone else did too.
When middle school hit, I fell prey to some chick-lit. Big time. This is not to say that chick-lit does not deserve merits, but it wasn't a shining time in my reading history. Among the books I read in this time were anything written by Sarah Dessen (loved This Lullaby), Better Than Running At Night by Hillary Frank, What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones and Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix.
My first year of high school was a very difficult time for me. I started the year as a hardcore Christian, Sunday school teaching, middle school bible study leading, naive, middle class white female with every door open to her. I ended the year as a survivor of rape, domestic violence and a young female who had suffered through the mind numbing decision to terminate a pregnancy that was a result of surviving rape. My world had literally turned upside down, and nothing that I had reached out to hold on to, to steady myself, had crumbled.
Except books. People in the books I read had to make difficult choices too, and I did not have to explain myself to them. They talked to me and I was not forced to talk back. I got to hang back and let them chose. At this point in my life, I feel that books truly healed me.
Specifically, I remember reading Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird when trying to make my decision of what I would do with the hateful things that were happening to me. My mother was so upset, as she was a lot at this time in my life, understandably. She saw me reading TKAM in the living room, stopped and asked "How can you just sit there and read right now?" I thought about it for a moment and said "Because I know everything is going to be okay. It won't be tomorrow, and it won't be next week. It might not even be next year, but I know someday it will all be okay." I can't point to a direct part of the novel that made me feel this way, I wish I could, but it settled me. It made me peaceful. It made me realize that my whole life was not defined by right then, this misery and all-encompassing greyness was not going to be my life. I think, maybe, that in the same way Scout's lost pieces of her innocence in TKAM, as was I when I was reading it and I connected with her. Boo Radley's heroic actions and Atticus's gentle words and manner nudged my mind towards the direction of the goodness that residedin humanity while I suffered through the results of the absolute evil in humanity.
Another book that helped me get through things was a book called girlosophy by a woman named Anthea Paul. This book could basically be considered "self help" for young women, combing inspiring, unaltered photographs of real women. It emphasizes spirituality and the importance of always being one's self. It gave me new role models for the new life that I had to turn to, one that did not include the Christianity that I had leaned on before. I absolutely love this book and hope to someday share it with someone who needs it, just like I did.
It would be difficult to pin down what I have been reading since that time in my life. I have been reading many of the classics, which was what most of my Honors and AP English courses taught. I fell in love with Fitzgerald, Steinbeck and the Brontes.
I count among my favorite books now Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides, White Oleander by Janet Fitch, Atonement by Ian McEwan, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.
I love reading.