Monday, November 12, 2012

Turning the Page, A Reading Autobiography - Part 3 - Adolesence/Adulthood

Here comes Part 3 - Signed, Sealed, and Delivered just for you!!!!

In junior high, we had actual classes devoted to Reading and Writing, and the reading material seemed to become a little more serious as well. I remember hating Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, feeling that it was a “boy book” that only boys could relate to. When I re-read it a few semesters ago for my Children’s Lit class, I discovered I couldn’t be more wrong about the epic survival tale. I also had a strong disdain for Island of the Blue Dolphins and The Phantom Tollbooth which were both total snooze-fests in my opinion. I definitely had “awkward stage” written all over me from about fifth grade, until I would say, sadly tenth grade. No matter what I did, I just never felt cool or confident about myself. I started to feel really obsessed with how I looked, and I never thought I looked good enough. I had baby fat and bad skin, wild hair, and felt like I always on the edge of everything, always looking in. It is really hard being a girl in middle school. I began to turn inward a bit, writing more in my journal, and feeling pretty lamentable about life at times. For this reason, I really connected with characters who went through similar circumstances of being the outsider such as Patty Bergen in Summer of My German Soldier, Turtle Wexler in The Westing Game, and Adam Farmer in I Am the Cheese.

During High School, I probably spent more time with my friends and less time reading. I tended to read a lot of lighter fare when pleasure reading such as Sweet Valley High, or Lois Duncan, and I adored reading teen magazines like Seventeen and YM. Moreover, I stumbled upon my favorite book while in high school, Valley of the Dolls, and was irresistibly drawn to the quest for celebrity, stardom, and fame, the scandal, the intrigue, and the glitz and glamour of the Hollywood Lifestyle. I wanted to grow up so badly, to experience life and do things I had never done before, I wanted to live a little more dangerously than I had in the past, which I think is typical for most high schoolers. It was during high school that I also started to gain an appreciation of classics such as Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Julius Caesar and appreciate the complex themes, metaphors, and symbolism.

In college, I read such a wide variety of books for my classes that I tried to take each one for what it was worth and keep an open mind to new genres and authors I had never heard of before. I went through a bad breakup, and used books as a means to escape my problems, the Civil War saga North and South, in particular, really helped me cross to the other side. I started to really finally know and accept myself as a person, and I figured I could do the same with reading, if a book looked good, I would read it. Currently, my reading tastes run a wide gambit, I still enjoy classics like Great Expectations or Pride and Prejudice, and I still love dramatic and the sensational titles like Rebecca or Sidney Sheldon's The Other Side of Midnight. I find myself wanting to revert back to simpler times like high school and junior high, and delight in children’s and young adult literature. For instance, the Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor has been one of favorites to discover as an adult. I feel that I was in such a hurry to grow up and to know what would happen in my life, but now I would rather like to return to the intricacies of seemingly less complicated times, even though they seemed so fraught with drama back then. I like to read these (Children's/YA Lit) books, knowing what I know now because it certainly adds something.

Reading over this series of blog posts, I can certainly spot a few patterns. First, teachers and librarians can undeniably make an astounding effect on a child’s life, either for the positive or negative ( Mark, your comment certainly rings true with this idea). In becoming librarians, we are without a doubt in a unique position to make a difference in people’s lives. I also find that books can serve many different purposes in the same person’s life. Books can be a means of escape, a way to explore new lands, a way to relate to others, or a way to relate to someone completely different from who you are. I think all that I have read has taught me that everyone has problems, and that sometimes it is what you overcome that makes you who you are. In this way, I would say my story is kind of like The Princess and the Pea, where each layer added something to my story, but in the end I shouldn’t be so thin-skinned and also not judge myself so harshly. In relating to teenage reading, I think it is important to remember what is like to be that age and listen to those in that age group. When you get know them and establish a genuine connection, then it will clear how to find a book that will speak to them for a moment in time

I had a blast exploring my past like this, hope you all enjoyed reading it, and that it makes you re-examine your reading autobiographies as well. Looking back certainly puts a new and valuable perspective on looking forward!!

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