Over the past two months, I have gotten back into my reading mode. This means the TV has been on less (a LOT less since the Writers Retreat a couple of weeks ago)–a good thing. But it also means my husband is still not getting the attention he deserves–not so good. (I WILL make it up to him.) I haven’t neglected my son, though, because every afternoon, as part of his homework, I read to him.
We got through To Kill A Mockingbird (what a classic!) and are now in the middle of Black Like Me (I never read that in high school…that’s what comes of finishing high school overseas, away from America’s race problem). I love reading aloud, just like my mother, only I believe I do it better, complete with accents and different voices for each character. But this past month has had its challenges in terms of language.
I have about had my fill of the Deep South, what with Jason’s assigned reading and my completion of this year’s release, The Help (about black maids in Mississippi during the 60’s, when everyone was in an uproar over civil rights). All three books included swear words. Reading The Help to myself, I could easily skip over such offensive language, but reading the other two books aloud to Jason has proven challenging. Try as I might, when I come to those words in the text, I can’t help pausing slightly. Do I censor or don’t I? As an author, the idea of censorship is disturbing. I am not one of those LDS mothers who refused to allow my son to read Of Mice and Men at the beginning of the school year. After all, they teach it at BYU. So, when we began reading the much tamer To Kill A Mockingbird, I forged ahead, enunciating every word in my fake southern drawl.
But Black Like Me has been more of a challenge. I have come to several passages where I simply wanted to skip ahead, if not for language, then for content. At first, inevitably, my son picked up on my hesitation and jumped up to see the offending words for himself before I could move on. Often, I was relieved to hear him suggest a less offensive alternative. But now that we’ve entered the portion of the account in which the writer has to unwillingly endure sexual conversation with white men, I’ve become very adept at skipping whole phrases, sentences, even paragraphs without hesitation (the trick is in using your Southern accent to draw out a word while you scan ahead). Censorship or not, these are things my son does not need to know to be fully informed of what it meant to be a black man back then.
Leaving the deep South, I moved on to familiar territory for my personal reading last month: World War II. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been fascinated by the European part of that conflict. So I read the highly acclaimed epistolary novel, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I’ll admit it took the first third of the book before I finally began to feel hooked. After all, it was nothing but letters. Gradually, though, those letters revealed the whole story of this group of Britons and their dealings with the Germans…and in a very captivating way.
After returning from the Writers Retreat a couple of weeks ago, I was ready for something new. Anything but the book I’ve been trying to slog through during the course of the last year–Galileo’s Daughter. I was never good at science and it shows every time I pick up where I last left off in that book! It requires absolute silence and no interruptions, so I’m waiting for my husband’s next business trip to Hawaii in a week and a half to finish the final two thirds of the book.
Fortunately, I came home from the retreat with three books to read. The first was actually the galley proofs for Dawn’s Early Light, the third in a series by Laurie LC Lewis. It’s coming out by early November, so I got to reading it right away. It was engrossing and I finished it in about five days. I plan on reviewing it here tomorrow on my blog.
Perhaps the most compelling book I’ve read recently was one I finished today. It will no doubt have LDS blogs in an uproar in the weeks to come. It’s a memoir by 27-year-old Elna Baker, who is a stand-up Mormon comedian in New York City, and it’s titled The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance. I am certain it will offend some (maybe even many), but I challenge anyone to show me a book written by a member of the Church that is more truthful, particularly with regard to the YSA scene. The way she describes that visceral pull between the world and her faith is often humorous, sometimes poignant, and no holds barred. If you’re not bothered by some bad language and frank talk of longings for intimacy, then it would be easily worth your time.
Now, I need to read the first draft of a YA fantasy by Bonnie Harris (a good friend I made at the retreat), as well as Marsha Ward’s Trail of Tears and Liz Adair’s Counting the Cost (nominated for a 2009 Whitney Award).
Then I’ve always got a slew of other books, including three by Barbara Kingsolver, to get through. I hope my eyes last!
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