By Cyn C. (Cyn-Sama)
My mother is at the heart of most of my book memories. She never censored what I read, believing that I would either gloss over the portions I didn’t understand, or give up and go find a book that was suited to me.
The memory that stands out the most is of my mother loaning me her copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn the summer before I went into sixth grade, just to shut me up for a little while, because I was constantly bugging her because I was bored.
I adored the book. I felt like I was transported to turn of the century Brooklyn, a place miles away from my quiet suburban neighborhood in Coventry, Rhode Island.
Much like my experience in reading the Little House on the Prairie books, I wanted to experience everything that the characters experienced. When Francie stated she would rather buy a potato over an apple, because the flesh of the potato had a similar texture, and was cheaper than an apple (so she could buy more candy), I just had to grab a raw potato, and carve out a hunk of it to see if the texture was really that similar (and, yes. It is).
Even now, years later, when I’m peeling potatoes, I’ll steal a piece to remind myself of how similar it is in texture to an apple, and think back on the book.
I was so enamored with this book, that I read it numerous times over the summer, and even brought it with me to school when I started sixth grade. My teacher was slightly horrified that my parents were letting me read the book.
Looking back, I guess I can understand his shock. I mean, a father dying of alcoholism, hanging condoms out a window, unrelenting poverty… It’s pretty heavy stuff even as an adult, but when I was a child, I experienced the same confusion that the children in the story did.
I was thinking about it last night, especially the chapter when Francie and her brother end up amusing themselves by hanging the condoms out the window. In the book, they were confused by the horror and the shock at the adults, and when I was reading it as a 10 year old, I was confused as to why the adults were so horrified.
Re-reading it again, when I was older clued me into as to what exactly they were dangling out the window.
It’s the perfect example of a book that grows up with you. Reading it as a youth, the age of the characters is a completely different experience as reading it as an adult.
When I hit Jr. High, my mother lent me her torn and tattered copies of Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonngut,
and The World According to Garp by John Irving. Both of which were books that I had to grow into.
Then, in High School, she hit me with the big whammy, The Handmaids Tale, by Margaret Atwood. These three books completely changed how I viewed the world, and how I viewed sexuality and feminism.
Before The Handmaids Tale, I had never given much thought to feminism; I just thought that equality was something that would come naturally in society.
After reading these books, I got angry. Very angry.
I’m sure it’s the same anger my mom felt as she was fighting for the Equal Rights Amendment.
This was supposed to be a short bit of babbling about books I loved to read growing up, but it’s kind of morphed into a love note to my mother, for making me the free thinking, angry, woman I am today.
Mom. Thanks. I still love sharing books with you. Discussing books is one of the things that have kept us close. Never stop sharing them with me.