For a moment this summer, I had the pleasure and pain of peering through a tiny window into a piece of the life my daughter lives sometimes. I devoured it in a plane ride and a late night wrap-up with twins and a five year old in tow, so anyone can do it. Since, it’s served as a family conversation piece; communicating to EVERYONE in our tiny nuclear from age 2 to 39. I get that it’s got a Newberry, so I’m late and it’s a graphic novel memoir, so it’s what everyone’s already been blown away by, but just watching my two year olds and my husband read the same book together, hearing my five year old ask about the symbolism of the protagonist’s imagined identity in the superhero cape, and getting my own insight into some of the awkward insecurities and pure rage my eight year old lives with when she can’t hear us reminds me why I need to read more for pleasure.
This Fall I discovered (as I completed a reading survey alongside my students) that I didn’t spend enough time reading for my own pleasure. While there are certainly elements of my professional reading that give me a little of that jouissance, I mean the kind of self-directed choice making that has no pressure. no requirements. no helicopters. no expectations. And that is precisely why I was so blown away. I did not know what to expect. And there it was, like a rainbow unfolding in our family and beyond. I left a library copy by accident with my friend James who accidentally gifted it to a bereaved family member. We didn’t ask for it back and he didn’t want to return it. Then it appeared in the summer reading rewards bookshelf at the library and Sadie (with a little of my motherly urging), picked it up and brought it home for everyone to fall into as I already had. Thank you, Ce Ce Bell. Thank you to all authors who put themselves and their lives into composition. Thank you to all the artists who push boundaries that are, in my opinion, slowly eroding when it comes to what counts as literature and what counts as scholarship. Your work is a gift.
My beautiful seven year old adding layers of making and analog texture to her digital texts with her cousin.
It was a warm summer evening when I tore open the long anticipated yellow envelope from my soon to be graduate school program. The summer reading list had arrived and I was eager to preview what we would be studying. I figured it would give me a sense of what to expect. It had been a while since I’d been academically challenged and I wanted to “warm-up” and get ready. I dove in and clicked my way to a couple of amazon purchases. When the Kuhn here arrived in the mail, I stared at it and left it on the shelf. Only when I had moved into the dormitories, a week out from the first day of classes, did I crack the cover and read in bewilderment. Paradigms? Science? What had I gotten myself into? I pushed through, took notes, and tried to talk with my partner about why I would be reading it. Luckily he’d read it in undergrad and had some ideas about why it would be assigned as an early reading for a doctoral program. To me it just seemed like a filter; filter out the students who “can’t hang” and reel in or allow in the students who are willing to struggle. Like a “good” student, I struggled through and finished with my notes and showed up to class, but the book left a yucky taste in my mouth. Looking back, I get the concepts and how they apply to what I studied, but this reading “invitation” was more of a wall to scale than a warm welcome to engage in a new field.
Paging through the time capsule at the Lockhart, Texas branch, I was inspired to consider what happens when libraries cull their collections. Often I encounter the sales in the spring or summer when old books are placed on carts for 10 cents or donated to the goodwill. Obviously these books aren’t getting burned, but these sifting practices take a bit of the history out of childrens collections. Made me really wonder about all the interesting questions kids might ask when confronted with more books from older generations. Also made me think about all the opportunities for critical history and literacy we lose when we avoid or eliminate everyday old books from shelves. Just a few skims and cover reviews, provoked so many questions for me about changes in technology, propriety, regionalism, conceptions of diversity. These older editions are maintaining some of the history in Lockhart and making updates and shifts in history visible. What happens to older texts when librarians update collections in big city libraries I tend to frequent? I wonder how it varies. I’m guessing economics has something to do with it, but I think this is one of those situations where the upside down economics might have been worked with intelligently. There was a huge collection of childrens books in Spanish and a whole room dedicated to young adults with YALit and computers. How are the collections revised in your local library?
Two Saturdays ago we took a trip to Academy for running shoes (for Rob) and a ballet skirt (for Nina). Ione made a bee line for the pink crossbows and rifles. I rushed to my phone to share, but realized this might only be disconcerting to me. Always room to be surprised at new target markets my children are. We didn’t buy the crossbow or the rifle, but is there a productive question or thought provoking activity to begin the critical analysis of gendered norms with a 2 year old? What would you do? Say?
I started writing on a walk with Nina and Sadie when we encountered this armadillo that had passed away. We took a photo because it was so arresting and wanted to share it with Rob who promised we’d see another armadillo when we missed the live one crossing the street earlier that month. While just SEEING the armadillo gave me pause, the act of taking its picture caused me to wonder about the ethics of photographing the dead. I thought if it was a butterfly, I wouldn’t have paused. There was some of me in this armadillo. I guess there still is. It also seemed as if it was asleep and photographing the sleeping has always been something I’ve been uneasy about it (although there is something beautiful about ANYBODY sleeping).