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I am very lucky. I grew up in a house where I was surrounded by books constantly. My mother had a special book that she taught all of her kids to read with, with me coming in 8 years behind the last. I don’t recall the name of this particular book, but I do remember one thing vividly. The entire book was in the form of a comic, beginning with panels of a young boy, speech bubble above his head, teaching me what the G sounds like in dog. The panels slowly but steadily work their way up to more complex sentences throughout the comic book. My mother is a librarian. Partially because she too grew up surrounded by books. I always joke that my love of books is not a choice but simply a part of my DNA. I vaguely remember one particularly boring weekend when I was 7, choosing to read Charlotte’s Web over the span of three days.
I began reading young adult fiction around the age of ten, and was buying Kurt Vonnegut books by age 13. Most of my friends pull out their phones when trying to pass time before class, I pull out a book. I can’t remember the last birthday I’ve had where cake and singing wasn’t preceded by a few hours at a bookstore. I organize my books by how in touch I feel with the characters.
Sherman Alexie had a very good point when he said “I read with joy and desperation. I loved these books, but I also knew that love had only one purpose. I was trying to save my life” In reference to what I said earlier, I don’t truly believe that reading is a part of my DNA. I do believe however that reading is a form of escapism, yet it transforms it from a technique to an art form. Reading is escapism, travel, vacation, rest, adventure…anything you want it to be. A writer’s sense of imagery can place you on top of a cliff or in your grandmother’s kitchen on Christmas day.
I instantly thought of my own journey learning to read when I saw that Alexie had learned to read with a comic book as well (though a different kind of comic book), and his fierce attitude towards books, and reading in general reminded me of my own reasons for loving reading so much.
“Books,” I say to them. “Books,” I say. I throw my weight against their locked doors. The door holds. I am smart. I am arrogant. I am lucky. I am trying to save our lives.” this is another quote by Sherman Alexie, which he says in reference to resistant children, whom he often sees as a visiting teacher. Some kids are so locked up inside of themselves, and they need someone that can show them that there are ways to escape their problems, or to just travel to another world for a while.
So many people, children and adults, choose not to read, because no one ever opened the door for them, and no one ever helped them find what they were looking for, when it could have been found in a book all along.
Sherman Alexie also had some struggles that I could sympathize with, but I couldn’t relate to. He talked about how most people expect Native American children to be stupid, so they choose to act that way. I took an Anthropology class last term, and the negativity towards Native Americans in horrific, especially considering how much exposure there is for many other kinds of prejudice. I hope that in the years since Sherman Alexie was in school this has improved, and I hope it continues to improve.
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