When Your Choices Shame You


International Championship game of the 2011 Little League World Series (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

I was feeling a bit low, heading into the second trimester with our second baby and fighting off a bout of food poisoning. I crossed my fingers this wasn’t the amoeba going around a colleague told me about. If it was, I didn’t want to know and hoped it would soon leave. I dragged myself downstairs. Monday: a day designated for writing on the weekly schedule. I was almost mid-gear on a novel re-write and had left a section in good shape the day before. But this morning, nearly almost mid-day, the house empty of toddler and husband, I felt primed for nothing more than sofa lazing.

I contemplated going back to sleep or finally getting my car washed while uploading my latest standup routine on YouTube. Ever the multi-tasker, I saw a notification from my brother. He knows that as a literature professor and writer, and as my childhood companion to weekly trips to the library, anything negative about reading riles me up.  I clicked on the tagged article: The Pain of Reading.

In sparse but emphatic prose, that doesn’t flinch from gritty details, the writer shook me out of my dehydrated doldrums. Luis Negron writes about his impoverished childhood, his visits to the local library, and his ill advised choice in pleasure reading . Negron’s childhood is a startling glimpse into life outside Little League games. Yes, the world he describes is short on material comfort. But you get used to this. Equally painful is an intellectual impoverishment to which a child cannot adjust.

The essay brought to mind the protagonist¬† An Unlikely Goddess, the novel I’m revising. Sita also finds a haven in books and her mother takes her to the library as one of the few free activities available to an immigrant family on a budget. Unlike Negron’s real life experience, Sita reads anything and everything she can get her hands on, for better or worse, under the indifferent eyes of her parents who are glad she has found a pursuit that will help her academic performance.

What was your own experience with reading like a child? Were you encouraged to get your hands on as many books as possible? Or were books something you came to appreciate later on in life?

The media has made it popular to say that no one reads anymore. Negron and Sita remind me that reading is a habit, like smoking or exercising, that we acquire from those around us. They’ve also reminded me that no matter how I feel, continuing to tell a story may be the most important thing I do all day.





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6 Responses to When Your Choices Shame You

  • Kristin says:

    What’s interesting to me about the “reading is dead” camp is that, in my mind, people are reading now more than ever. They may not be reading the “Great American Novel,” but they’re constantly reading text messages, Facebook statuses, Twitter feeds, blog posts, and online news. Maybe the conversation should focus on reading content and motivation instead of the action. Hope you’re feeling better!

  • Living in a very small town, I read every book in my age group in that library, so then I went to the higher shelves. I read The Diary of Anne Frank when the librarian took a look at me and then with a nod of her head, allowed me to check it out. When I ‘had’ to read it in high school years later, it was as if I’d never read the book at all. Things I didn’t understand as a kid, made me think as a teenager.

  • Mohana says:

    You’re absolutely right Kristin. We read all the time now, particularly with social media, and this counts — even toward writing skills in my opinion. I tell my students to practice full grammar in these informal experiences if they want go improve their formal performance.

  • Mohana says:

    I know what you mean Pepper. I read The Handmaid’s Tale and Pillars of the Earth in my teens and I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about :).

  • My very first memory of reading was actually before I could read. My parents were sitting at the table, reading the paper, and I wanted to know (so badly) what the papers were saying. So I grabbed a paper, sat on the couch, held it up and started “reading”. It was nothing more than made-up stories but it’s what I imagined the words to mean. I wanted to read in the worst way. When I got into school, we went on a field trip to the public library and, to this day, I can remember the sheer joy … the awe that all of those books were there for me to check out. While I do believe that a love of reading is cultivated and can be encouraged via example and having plenty available to read, I also think that some are just born wanting to know.

  • Spearcarrier says:

    Used to read voraciously; my parents were the same. My daughter not so much, and sometimes I think its because I’ve always worked too hard to read around her and give her the same environment. She’ll rue those days: she wants to be a writer.

    But anyway: feel better!

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