Rebel Reader

10 Jan

Most of my memories of reading in early childhood aren’t really memories of my own. I think I had my parents’ memories told to me over and over, and those are the things that stuck with me. I’m told that when I was younger I loved to be read to. What child doesn’t? I’ve been told that I always wanted my father to be the one to read to me. Like many children do, I would insist on having the same book read over and over. It was Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss. He’d read it, and I’d literally hop on “Pop”. That must have been amusing.

I have a vague memory of my mother reading the Anne of Green Gables series to me. She’d come into my bedroom at bed time, and sit on the edge of my bed and read from the novel. This was well after I’d learned to read, but before I would have dreamed of tackling such a large novel on my own. I remember with fondness the time we shared together more than the plot of the novel. But, I do remember Anne talking about finding a “bosom friend… a really kindred spirit”, someone with whom she could share her soul. I think this is when I started romanticizing about the idea of having a best friend, a kindred spirit.

When I started reading novels for myself my mother started me off with books by Judy Blume. These are the books that I identified with, the books that let me know that I truly was a reader. These are the books that made me realize that reading could be fun if you liked what you were reading, because up to that point I despised reading. However, I never really adopted the pastime of reading for pleasure until I was an adult.

Even so, there was one book that I longed to read. The one Judy Blume book that my mother refused to buy for me, was the one I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. To tell the truth, I still don’t remember how I got the book, but I do remember hiding it in my dresser drawer under all my clothes. I remember moving it sometime later to a safer place where my mother was sure not to find it. Most importantly and most memorable are the evenings I’d go to be without a fight and take the book under the covers with a flashlight to read it. I was a rebel. Reading the forbidden Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. I don’t remember much about that book now, but I do remember the chant of the main character and her deepest desire to increase her chest size. She’d do an exercise while chanting “I must, I must, I must increase my bust.” I understood why my mother didn’t want me to read this book, but I couldn’t stop myself. I think she found it months later while cleaning, but that isn’t what I remember. I remember the thrill of reading something taboo.

I still love reading things that might seem taboo to some. I like to read things that challenge my beliefs and values. I like the occasional trashy novel, not the Harlequin Romance kind, but the New York Times Bestsellers with evil, blood, guts, crime, and a little sex dropped in there. In fact, it was just last month when we were going somewhere that I needed to bring a book along to read but left the book that I really wanted to read home. It was too embarrassing of a title to read in public.

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