As soon as I realized that I could escape into tiny printed words and create any fantasy that I desired, I became absolutely addicted. It began when my mother taught me how to read.
I remembered my first book without pictures. I can’t remember how old I was but I remembered when my mom handed it to me, I asked her, “Mummy*, where are the pictures?” I remembered that I frowned. My mother sat down and explained how to visualize the words and imagine the scenes from the book. I sat with her, closed my eyes as she read a few sentences and imagined the characters being me and anyone else that I chose. I created them, sometimes not specific — tall or short, genderless, fat, skinny — I controlled the characters. I don’t remember reading many books with images after that. The first book without photos that I ever read was the Education of Little Tree which I found out later has a great deal of controversy now that I’m an adult. I found it again while passing by Strands Book Store in NYC.
Photo credit: Propeller Books.
It was probably 75 cents, a steal really. I’m a tiny bit appalled when books are that inexpensive but I bought it again to remind me of my childhood. I don’t remember what the story was about now since it’s been many years. However, I hope to reread it and for 75 cents, it’s not that bad.
This was my childhood in Wesley, Dominica:
For much of my childhood, I lived in Wesley ( a small village in the island of Dominica — Wesley, was named after the methodist, John Wesley) with my grandparents. It was a simple community with mostly farmers. Next to our house was a garden that led to a drop into a valley — it was very beautiful. Whenever I got a new book to read, I would sit next to that area overlooking the valley and imagine myself in new worlds, countries, and cities that I’d never been to. I’d have careers dreamed up, lifetimes imagined, families created etc. My grandparents had no electricity (or running water) so most of my time spent reading was during the day before twilight. I was warned by my grandparents that the Kerosene lamps would make us blind or “strain our eyes” — oddly enough, I still have 20/20 vision *knock on wood.*
By the time I was 9, I had read most of the books in the small library in our village. I had also read many of the books and encyclopedias that my parents sent us from St. Croix. I was into Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, James Joyce, etc. Then a friend of mine introduced me to a woman from the U. S. who had moved into our village. She had a huge collection of Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, V. C. Andrews and Goosebumps (some of my favorites back then). She would distribute the books much like the library (writing our names down and the books we took).
Childhood in the Virgin Islands:
When I moved to St. Croix, I was exposed to the rest of the series that I missed out on: more R. L. Stine, V. C. Andrews… and I was exposed to Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, etc. I continued reading. My mom had a great collection of romance novels that I absolutely abhorred so she purchased books that I was into also and our apartment ended up looking like a library (still sort of does).
With the digital age and my own reasons for not getting the iPad or Kindle (well that, and financial reasons), I still read books. The best year that I have had in NYC was actually reading 86 books while riding back and forth to work for a year. I’ve been more into podcasts than books lately but I’m writing a few myself. I have two book cases filled with books currently.
I love reading science fiction however, my love of history and people allows me to enjoy non-fiction and biographies. For a period of my life I read self-help books but realized that, according to the subject, many of the “help” isn’t applicable to your experiences. I certainly adore a great mystery novel on my downtime. Here’s list of my books that I’ve read here on Visual BookShelf.
Which genres are your favorites? What got you into books?
*We spell Mommy as Mummy in Dominica since it’s British influenced. I’ve only started writing mom instead of mum when I attended Junior High.