Unlike most of my bookish friends, learning to read didn’t come easily to me. In another life, with a different mother, I’m sure I’d hate books. Seriously, I owe at least 99% of my identity as a reader to my mom. Because despite hating reading when I was younger, I never hated books. My mom read them out loud to me every night and never, never gave up on helping me gain reading proficiency. We had a lot of privilege in addressing this problem – even growing up in a house so full of books is a privilege many don’t have. Mom took me to tutors and specialists. She modelled a love of books. She spent hours patiently helping me through reading homework and exercises.
When things clicked around fourth grade, I don’t know who was happier: me or my mom. I was brought into this whole new world, and it was one we could share through stories and fictional worlds we both loved.
How did I repay her?
For some reason – a reason that I can’t exactly name – I became increasingly resistant to read my mom’s favorite books. It’s weird because so many of my favorite books are ones she put in my hand. From classics like Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, to the Regency romances of Georgette Heyer, my mom hugely influenced my favorite authors and genres. She has great taste!
Still, when I’d be looking for something to read and she would suggest a few of her favorites time and time again I’d refused. The struggle occasionally became impassioned. “But you’d love it,” Mom would say. “You’re only not reading this to bug me.” I’d respond by saying I could read whatever I wanted. Not your usual fights about curfew or wearing too much makeup.
The biggest struggles were over the historical novel Exodus by Leon Uris, about the founding of the State of Israel. This was a book my mother read and reread many times over as a teenager. And even still at the age of twenty-nine, I’ll sometimes think that I should pick it up because it would make Mom so happy – but I don’t. Something is still holding me back.
Other struggles I remember having were over the books Dune, by Frank Herbert, The Far Pavillions by M. M. Kaye, Hawaii by James Michener, Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn, and The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I’m sure there were others, but those are the big fights I remember. I guess the common factor in a lot – but not all – of these books is they are kind of long, historical fiction epics. But the thing that doesn’t make a lot of sense, is I LOVED kind of long, historical fiction epics as a teenager.
My longtime refusal to read The Lord of the Rings was also a big disappointment to my mom. She and her siblings adored those books, even going so far to name their childhood dog Frodo. But when I finally read the books in a very funny religion class in college, I think maybe it was more disappointing that I didn’t love them the way she did.
In fact, maybe this fear of not loving the books she did could be the driving force behind my stubbornness. It’s so hard when someone raises your expectations and wants to you to like something and instead your feel kind of, well, meh. And while I do think I had/have the right to read whatever I want, if I have a kid that won’t read Harry Potter I literally don’t know what I’m going to do with myself. Sorry mom!