Archives: Reading Connection

Library Love

When I enter a library for the first time reverence and joy washes over me. Regardless of the city, it is a homecoming. There are no strangers in libraries because they are populated by readers.

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/personal-history/growing-up-in-the-library

If you love libraries the above link to a New Yorker article written by Susan Orlean will delight you. It mirrors my memories of discovery and wonders experienced at each visit.

Inner-city Chicago miles from the culturally rich lakefront was not a mecca of reading. Our local public grammar school was more adept at processing children on a conveyor belt of mediocrity than instilling a love of reading. One astute teacher sent a note to my mother. Madame: Please allow your daughter to get a library card at the local branch of the Chicago Public Library. It is necessary for her to continue her studies.

She made the request to the mothers of three other students in the fourth-grade class of 42 students. She rightly guessed our mothers would grant permission because the note written on school stationery, mentioned a sanctioned city facility. Gratefully she was correct.

The Sherman Park Branch Library, named for the founder of the Chicago Stock Yards, not some far off general was added to the park in 1937. Perhaps it was built as a depression-era works project by some of the skilled immigrant artisans who populated the city and my neighborhood.

At age nine I lingered outside the imposing building afraid to go in. The librarian sat at a huge oak desk that faced the front door. She must have seen me as I paced the walk. She opened the door and I froze. The emerging woman said, “May I help you?”

I became a stutterer in the moment. Gradually, I calmed my voice and got the nerve to say, “My teacher says I have to have a library card.”

She extended her right hand toward me and said, “Welcome. My name is Lucy Ingram, and you are?”

I’d neither shaken hands nor had an adult introduce herself to me.

“Come in. Let’s see what kind of books you like.”

The generosity of the teacher who led me to a door and the librarian who opened it gave me the greatest gift of my life. Though our libraries are closed due to the Corona Virus, our tireless librarians strive to foster our communities. Zoom book club meetings, email chains, and shared resource links allow us to maintain our community, while in the background library staffs meet electronically to explore other ways to connect, develop wellness programming and seek grants for the betterment of our library experiences now and in the post lockdown future.

I hope to see you perusing the shelves soon.

Book Lists

Pick a genre, era, or topic there is a book list. As a writer I’m addicted to book lists, they are opioids for my reading addiction. I seek them out in libraries, online, and in news feeds. I share the lists I find with fellow readers and writers. If by chance a shared list choice becomes a book club title, a mutual read discovered in conversation or a pass along to a fellow traveler all the better. The hours of reading are enhanced by pooled thoughts Reading of new and loved authors also serve as a tutorial for readers who are also writers. Prose enchantment can lead to a hangover composed of how did she or he do that? The hangover can only be cured by writer analysis.

The holidays offer up a plethora of possibilities. Tis the season of Book Lists. 2018 lists are long — The New York Times Notable 100; nominees for prizes — The Man Booker Shortlist;  short — The Ten Best Books of 2018; funny – The Best Comedy Books That Can Save Us From 2018, classical – The Guardian’s List of the Top 100 Books of All Time.

Some titles are put through an annual final four style tournament. Books are pitted against each other in an online popularity vote until one remains as the Tournament of Books winner for the New Year.

Book lists are great. Right? Yes, to a point. There are also lists that stratify types of writers. Books by Women, Books by African Americans, Books by Natives, Books by LGBTQ authors, you get the gist. The lists like all lists are interesting and somewhat addictive when searching for new voices. Such lists shine a light on authors that might not be included in more established lists. There is a downside. Lists stratified by race, gender or geographical identity also imply that these authors are indeed writers of a sort but they have not earned the unqualified identification of AUTHOR (white male).

Stratification hints that books written by women of any color are for females, LGBTQ authors write for the rainbow community, African American writers serve a population of color and thus all are somewhat less than books written by the ages-old cadre of male writers.

Books are a collaboration between writer and reader. Pages written are learned and shared experiences when the meld is successful. All that matters is the writing that creates touchstones by an author of any color, origin, or historical background. When that connection is made societal pigeon holes become irrelevant. Read a book because it appeals to not because it has been blessed by a list. Happy reading.

© 2020 Lee Heffner – Author