Sunday, June 21, 2015

Words

Reading is many things to me: an escape from boredom or stress, an education on history and the diversity of people, an elaborate fantasy world, a moving picture more vivid than HD. I can live in a book the way Miss Suzy lived in a dollhouse (one of my favorite childhood picture books about a squirrel who snuck into an attic to live). But most of all, reading is how I define myself.  Not only do I snobbishly categorize myself as a "reader," reading has helped me more than anything else learn who I am and who I want to be.

As a child, I was more of an indoor kid, and since our TV was kind of jankie, and my house had an endless supply of books, reading was the habit I formed. Since we didn't have many kids in our neighborhood, I spent a lot of my time reading. I was lucky to have a cousin Amy who not only handed down cool California clothes, she sent us the latest books. I was the first girl in 6th grade to have "Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret." That was how I learned about puberty, boys and social interaction.

As an adult, I retreat into the fantasy world of books to escape stress and anxiety. Nothing captivates and distracts me like a 3000 page Ken Follet triology. I felt I could relate more to my grandfather who served in WWI after reading "Fall of Giants." I had little school training (or memory) in history, so I have filled in the gaps through historical fiction, one of my favorite genres. Sometimes I get mixed up on whether I have seen the movie or read a particular book, so vivid are the pictures I draw in my mind.

I am in awe of writers who can take ordinary words and combine them in an extraordinary way. It's fascinating how endless the arrangement of the English language is. I love to write down similes and metaphors from books that I find genius:

"Her voice, like some confused child, made my throat feel as if it were splintered by razors."

"The place was radioactive with memories." 

"He looked over his bifocals and rearranged some throat phlegm." 

Books are my friends when I have moved to new locations where I didn't know anyone and many other lonely moments of my life. I can curl up with a good book on a sunny day as easily as a rainy day. "Bridget Jones Mad About the Boy" had me laughing out loud and "Dark Places" had me internally vomiting but unable to put it down. The funny friend and the scary friend. "The Day I Went Missing" was the how-not-to handbook for my profession.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali in "Infidel" helped me justify my belief that abuse and violence against women should not be tolerated in the name of religion or cultural diversity. Augustus Waters in "The Fault in our Stars" taught me I don't have to make a large mark on the world; my small mark is good enough. Marie-Laure in "All the Stars We Cannot See" gave me hope of a resilient, long life in spite of the most profound losses. And these are just a few of the recent lessons learned.