Category Archives: reading

Another Dimension

Cave Paintings
Cave paintings

Reading a “Americanah” on a device in my pocket makes me more and more sure that effective communication has the power to transcend format and that exploration of a multitude of accessible formats with this purpose in mind is worth investing in. Reading “Americanah” over the weekend, I also became aware of the nearly miraculous ability to perceive the interior of someone else’s experiences through literature.

I was not aware of this in such a way when I read voraciously as a girl and a teenager. I was so embedded in the world of books that it was normal for me to constantly be either in life or in books about 65% of the time. I was allowed to spend a lot of time in my imagination so I never really understood how the imagination can sometimes be a luxury until recently. Over time I have come to understand myself not just as a vessel through which dreams, communication. art and expression flow, but as a person in relationship to others in ways that effect change, that provoke thought, that shift, perpetuate, inform and create perception whether I like it or not and in ways I may never be aware of. I think this is why I have always loved reading because for me, it is the way in which I consciously allow my own perceptions and world view to be effected without fear of judgment. Without a fear of judgement there is total attention and only with complete attention can the ability to learn truly exist. When I am genuinely engaged with literature, I feel like I can allow my imagination to co-create my reception and comprehension with complete attentiveness.

To be able to temporarily move from one reality to another by simply reading someone’s words, for me this is a form of dimensional travel. When I’m reading, my mind is open in ways that it is not during day to day interactions, conversations, at work, in commute or even just walking down the street. There is in that openness, the potential for retention in ways that affect my consciousness even at a molecular level and I have always cherished it. When I get to the end of a good book, I feel that I have come out on the other side of an experience that is now somehow an indelible part of me, like when someone introduces you to a musical artist that you come to love. And then years later you can’t even remember the first time you heard the song. All you know if how much you love it, how it makes you feel. Something which at one point in time you had never even known existed is now an intimate part of your life you cannot imagine living without.

When we are engaged with whatever we choose to read, the feeling of connection over time and space, culture, condition, race and gender is like a slowing down of time, a moment where all things fleeting or jumbled fall into place. It is a feeling that stabilizes, re-informs, supports, enlightens and challenges. I don’t believe that the importance of the ability to access the fertility of the mind can be overstated. The tools with which to look critically at that which we consume so often below the line of consciousness is something which great writers like Adichie have a firm grasp on.  More on that in my next entry.

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Black Girl YA Circa 1980s

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As a little Brooklyn born home-schooled vegan I was enrolled up the wazoo in extracurricular activities, from Gardening at BBG to art classes at the Brooklyn Museum to the Reading is Fundamental Book Club at the Brooklyn Public Library. I was a born bookworm. I don’t know how old I was when I learned to read but I suspect it was quick and early. I started writing poetry when I was eight.

For me, getting a card at the Brooklyn Public Library was like gaining entry to the first club ever that I ever felt I completely belonged to. I remember them typing up all the info on it, my name address, phone number and then laminating it and telling me all the rules about due dates, borrowing limits and such. Oh, it was like getting the keys to the kingdom. And I read voraciously, particularly YA, and at an age when I was neither preteen nor young adult. LOL! But if you were like me, a young brown girl with a huge reading appetite, you noticed that there was a glaring absence of Black faces in the worlds of Francine Pascal, Judy Blume, Ellen Conford, Paula Danziger, Maud Hart Lovelace and the entire Sweet Dreams series. “Rainbow Jordan” by Alice Childress stands out a lot in my mind but I was deeply irked that it was like the only book I ever saw on the shelves with a Black face on it. It appeared and reappeared but nothing else with a Brown face on it ever did. And to be honest I did try to read and just wasn’t feeling it. But there was nothing else to compare it to!

So I kept reading more authors like the ones listed above and I was an avid fan of them all. I mean like many girls White and Black alike, I came of age with these characters and they will forever remain embedded in my literary DNA with a lot of warm deluded memories. But one day while I was in line at the RIF club looking through books to take out I saw the first ever Black face I had ever seen on a Sweet Dreams paperback and I flipped out! “The Truth about me and Bobby V.” by Janetta Johns.

Oh I was soooo excited!!!! I was elated! It was about a dysfunctionally shy gangly Black girl who lived in some inner city USA. She had just adjusted to being in a new, tougher High School with the help of her tougher more outspoken BFF Bobby V. when her parents announce they will be moving the whole family to a predominantly white suburb where she dreads having to start all over again.

I read that book more times than I can remember. I’ve read it as an adult. I own a copy that I ordered on Amazon for posterity. One single Sweet Dreams book about a Black girl, Copyright 1983. Sure, she was a light skinned girl of the variety that corporations targeted for sanitary napkin commercials in the 70s and if I had to break down the whole story, I realize it doesn’t take on race relations in any radical way. But still. She was one brown face in a sea of white girls. And that was extremely important for me as a reading junkie and as a Black female and it still is now.

10/7/2014