Sunday, January 19, 2014

32 Books My College Students Assigned Me: Book #6:Oh no, this is THAT book.

On Friday between classes when I was packing a stack of books to bring home and read, I was inspired by the awesomeness of Book #1 to select books I knew were from the Florida-Georgia Border.

 Book #2 is not a history narrative or a memoir or anything geographically relevant. Book #3 is sit in middle America. 

Books #1, 4, 5, and 6 are take the reader through the US's southern frontier, a place as violent and exciting as the "Wild West" depicted in so many AMC films.

A student offered me a choice of two book: one by a Victorian-era British author, the other by a celebrated American. 

I'd been assigned both books in college, way back in the ancient 1980s.

 I  pluck the American author's book from the student and handing her a piece of class money. I'm not excited to read it, but I don't dread it. The cover and title reveal nothing, and the story castle hidden between the pages seems far away and hazy to me, like I'm trying to focus after rubbing itchy eyes too hard. 

I started reading (re-reading?) Book #6 early Sunday morning.  Ten minutes into reading it, a bright rainbow shines outside my window. I try to take a picture with my iPhone but it is cold and no picture can capture what it feels like to laugh at a wet cold surprise rainbow on a January morning.

The first pages of the book are very very familiar.  I stop reading and offer to make bacon for the six children sprawled across my living room, waking up from a long night of giggling and whatever they did so quietly it didn't bother me at all.

"Make the GOOD bacon!" both my kids call out to me and I balk back, "Is there BAD bacon?" 

The other kids laugh and I occupy myself frying strip after strip, keeping the pan from getting too hot, too cold.  


I leave the bacon on the counter and go back to the book without announcing a thing.

If they're hungry, they'll make their way.  

I curl back up with the book and then something in the story turns and  book goes back off through history and time, taking the reader through 25 years of this woman's life in frontier Florida.  

Meanwhile, a parade of kids go by me, called by the smell of bacon. They drink water and milk and orange juice and if they ask me any questions I couldn't hear them because I was lost in this story.

After 100 pages I shake myself out of the book and announce to the kids, "I thought I read this, but if I'd read this I'm sure I'd assign it in class! But I don't assign it! I'm losing my mind!"

Zack comes close to me and inspects the book. "You have this book. It's blue."

"It's blue," I agree. 

And knowing who I used to be when I was assigned the book, it probably has notes all over it preparing myself for some debate or to make some point. I was all about putting the story in context, analyzing the means of oppression, looking for symbols embedded in the narrative.

I had no idea (or maybe when I read it I wasn't in a place to notice or a place to care) that this was a LOVE story, a coming-of-age, growing into a full person making hard choices at hard times LOVE story. 

Four hours later I'm still transfixed by the story. 

A hurricane looms. They don't evacuate. 

Oh no. Oh no, this is THAT book.

I put the book down and pace by the sofa. I want to do something else, anything else. 

If this is the book I suddenly remember it to be, it's as sad as Old Yeller.  

No, worse, as sad as Old Yeller meets Hurricane Katrina.

 I want a break, I want to watch Gordon Ramsey yell at someone, but I can't put the book down. 

 I sit like a statue until I turn the last page. I love this character so much I want to read another book and another and if she ever dies I want to read books with her voice narrating things from heaven.

 If you like The Color Purple,  The Grapes of Wrath, Fried Green Tomatoes, The Help or To Kill a Mockingbird, I think you'll like this.

 If you read this book many years ago, before you could connect to a 40 year old woman narrator, read it again. There is wisdom and history  treasure shining from these pages.