Obviously, I hope my daughter someday loves every single book I also love. That way, I can look forward to a future in which we sit around in our matching cat slippers and fleece pajama pants while braiding each other’s hair and debating the relative merits of psychological horror versus supernatural horror.
In reality, I know my daughter will develop her own interests, wholly distinct from mine. How else to explain her obsession with poop-themed picture books and her enjoyment of the outdoors?
Still, there are some books I read and enjoy and immediately think: Emily will love this someday.
Or: Emily will need this.
For the moment, Em is at the stage (2 and a half) where she’s still merely memorizing all the words to The Saddest Toilet in the World, rather than actually reading them. But in preparation for the day when she no longer needs me to read aloud to her, I’m stockpiling the following books:
Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis’s Lumberjanes. Of course, Phoebe is merely the precursor to my true obsession. I am madly in love with Lumberjanes, a middle grade comic about a group of BFFs battling supernatural beings at a summer camp vaguely reminiscent of the one I attended as a Girl Scout. I’m saving every single volume—about friendship and loyalty and kicking ass—for my future warrior.
Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story. Before I started reading horror and only horror, and before my parents started worrying that their daughter was a bit morbid, my favorite childhood book was The Neverending Story. For one, it’s a book about a book—irresistible for a book nerd. For another, its epic tale of bravery and the magic of imagination was one I couldn’t help coming back to again and again. I saw myself in Ende’s lonely, bullied, bookish young narrator, and it was wildly gratifying to see his growth throughout the course of the book.
Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street. Ende’s book was all plot, but Cisneros’s writing is pure poetry. It came into my life at the perfect time for a young girl who was growing to love words, and gave me a window into the life of someone whose day-to-day looked very different from my own.
Alida Nugent’s You Don’t Have to Like Me. I mentioned in a previous post that this book reminded me of my own feminism primer back in the day, Jessica Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism. Obviously, I plan to pass it along to my daughter.
Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist. And since we’re on a roll with essential feminist texts, she just has to read the book that made me feel better about being an imperfect feminist. I first claimed the identity of “feminist” for myself when I was 22. Then, over time, I started to suspect I was too flawed to be a true feminist. Gay’s essay collection has helped me reclaim feminism at a time when women’s rights are facing a devolution.
Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things. This is the book I gift to every woman in my life. And Em is the most important woman in my life (and also the most adorable). I find that this book is the perfect balm when I’m going through a rough patch. It imparts both perspective and wisdom.
Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. And because fiction can also impart important lessons, I’ll also suggest Speak. I read this one at the end of 2016. It’s a YA about a year in the life of a teenage girl who is sinking under the weight of a big, terrible secret: her rape at the hands of a high school senior the summer before. This book was gripping and true and heartbreaking and insightful, and the narrator is exactly who I’d want my daughter to be going on this journey with.
Claudia Rankine’s Citizen. I waited far too long to read Rankine’s much-lauded prose poem about experienced racism in our culture. I won’t let Em make the same mistake.
Isabella Rotman’s Not on My Watch. This comic artist regularly does artistic collaborations with Scarleteen. But I actually learned about her myself when I interviewed Erika Moen of Oh Joy, Sex Toy. This slim graphic manual is the perfect how-to on consent and responsible bystander-ship.
Jolie Kerr’s My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag… and Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha. Finally, in the event Emily ever moves out (a reality that’s difficult to imagine at a time when I’m counting down the days ’til we send her to preschool) she’ll need this. Because she certainly won’t learn how to clean from me. I’m useless in that department.
At least I’m teaching her how to cook.
And to read, for that matter.