Hi! I’m starting this blog for EN 501 and have been asked to write a post about my literary history. So here it goes!
How did I start reading?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading, really. I can remember the first book I ever treasured. In preschool, our teacher gave each of the children a small, pocket-sized book. My book was a copy of the fairy tale, The Three Billy Goats Gruff. I can’t recall the illustrator or publisher as, sadly, I no longer have this cherished childhood item. I do remember how proud I was of this book and how much I loved the story. I think my love of reading began before this; but, this is a pivotal moment in my literary history. In this same preschool, I also went to the public library and obtained my first library card. This memory is cemented in my brain. I could not believe that I could take home any book I wanted, as often as I wanted, for FREE! After getting my library card, I would beg my mother to bring us to the library as often as possible. I’m not sure at exactly what age I was permitted to start going by myself; but, once given this freedom, I would ride my bike to the library, take out the maximum number of books allowed with a children’s library card, fill my bike basket, and return 2-3 weeks later for more. I remember the library made a special allowance for me to have an adult library card so there was no cap to the number of books I could take out and so that I could take out books from the young adult section before the age of 13. Reading was and is one of my greatest pleasures. My mom is a big reader as well and she allowed me (rightly or wrongly) to spend hours upon hours reading in the summer rather than playing outside. I remember getting Pizza Hut Book-it certificates for a free pan pizza for every 5 books I read and reading so many that I got certificates for my younger sisters as well. I also remember receiving the entire series of Sweet Valley Twins books as a Christmas gift one year and that being one of the greatest gifts I’d ever received. I’m quite nostalgic thinking about the joy that books/reading brought to me as a child.
What books have been important to me?
So many. As I mentioned above, as a kid, the Sweet Valley Twins series was very important to me. My childhood had some challenges, and books were my escape. Books I read as a child and in middle grade, were very important to me. Some of my favorites were:
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli – I grew up in Philadelphia (where this book takes place) and in a racially diverse neighborhood, so I was very drawn to this book.
The Giver by Lois Lowry may have been the first book to challenge my analytical muscles. The themes of this novel are relevant for anyone and that Lowry created this for young readers is extraordinary.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle is one of my favorite books. I had a paperback copy that I read so many times, I lost the front cover. I related to Meg more closely than any character I’d read before.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens is, I think, my favorite novel. My first time reading it, I was too young and didn’t have any guidance. I read it on my own in seventh grade because my older cousin was reading it in high school and it was lost on me. I read it again junior year of high school and, with the help of my English teacher and the discussion with my peers, grew to love the story and even the verbose nature of Dickens’ writing. I read it again as an undergrad and it was then that I grew to appreciate the work as a true masterpiece. Miss Havisham is my most favorite literary character of all time.
I am also a huge fan of short stories. Some important pieces, for me, have been: The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry, The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs, The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin (her novel, The Awakening, as well) and stories by Edgar Allan Poe.
Have I had struggles with reading?
Yes. As I mentioned above, my first reading of Great Expectations was difficult. I didn’t have the patience for it and my brain hadn’t been adequately trained yet to understand syntax and to analyze the work. I also struggled with Shakespeare when I first read his works. I was also terrified of poetry at one point. I took a course with an amazingly patient professor as an undergraduate, who forced me to shake off my fears and would not allow me to say I “didn’t get it.”
What kinds of libraries have I used?
I have used public/free libraries, student reference libraries, online reference libraries, and the online free library, Overdrive.
What kinds of reading have I done for different kinds of projects / purposes?
I was an English major with minors in Psychology and Sociology as an undergrad. I read a ton of literature and critical responses to literature in a well-rounded curriculum. I also read psychology textbooks and non-fiction sociological pieces. Post-college, my professional readings have largely been on advances in healthcare technology and, in the last 7-10 years, on policy changes. This has largely been to keep me conversant in topics vital to my clients’ needs.