Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Becoming Aunt Pam

Back in the day when I learned to read, I never had a shortage of books. My Mom made the mistake of telling Aunt Pam (who is not my 'real' aunt, but a close friend of the family) that I loved to read. So, Aunt Pam made it a point to fill my bookshelves with classic books whenever there was a special occasion. From second grade on, I was getting classic, hardback editions of books like "Little Women," "Pride & Prejudice," "Jane Eyre", "Black Beauty", "Gulliver's Travels" and many more. Each book was special because they all had a personal inscription from Aunt Pam. "Jane Eyre" was dated Christmas '89 with the note: "Wishing you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year with more adventures in reading. Enjoy! Love, Aunt Pam."

I was overwhelmed initially, since each book was at least 200 pages long. I'd usually flip through the pictures first and then decide if I was going to read the book. "Black Beauty" and "Little Women" being the first books I read from that collection and I loved them both. In fact, those are probably the only ones I read beginning to end. I struggled to get through "Gulliver's Travels" many times and I think that is probably the first book I disliked. And I don't care what anyone says about Jane Austen, I just can't get into her. (I can watch the movies, just can't read the books)

As I did my Christmas shopping this year, I realized a bit of Aunt Pam had crept into me. There are two little boys in my life -- my younger cousins -- who we all dote on during the holidays and birthdays. They're getting older (ages 15 and 12), so they mostly get money and gift cards as presents. But I always make it a point to give them a book with whatever else I may give them. I will say that it is extremely difficult trying to find contemporary books targeted to a young male audience, particularly young black males. Last year, I got one of them a Walter Dean Myers book and this year, I got them both books by Carl Deuker. Each of Deuker's books deals with a sports theme, so I think I'll stick with him for awhile. The boys don't really like to read, so I hope this will break them out of that.

I've lost touch with Aunt Pam over the years. But one day, I hope to catch up with her and thank her for all the books she bought into my life. I only hope I can have the same influence on those boys. I have to take an exam in a few months that'll determine whether or not I can get my master's degree. I got a reading list of novels we should review for the exam. Guess what's on there? "Jane Eyre." I've reached page 130 in my copy and I have 400+ pages to go. It's actually pretty good. Maybe once I'm done, I'll get through all those other classic books in my collection.

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