Our Reading Lives

On Letting Go of My Literary Elitism

This is a guest post from Mateeka Quinn. Mateeka is a freelance writer who writes locally for entertainment magazines in the Dallas area. She loves a long run and will happily Like everything you post to social media. When she’s not writing, she can be found posted up in front of a Law and Order: SVU marathon on TV. Follow her on Twitter @MateekaQuinn.


I always dreamed of being that writer in the coffee shop with a stack of uncovered hardbacks, a pair of wire-rimmed glasses and three half-empty cups of coffee before me, manically working on my fourth bestseller. Honestly, I still hold that fantasy in the back of my mind. Emphasis on the back. It wasn’t until recently that I accepted the fact that I will likely never win a Pulitzer, a Nobel, or a Newbury Award. For all you Texans, I will however still accept a Bluebonnet Award should my time come.

The reason that I probably won’t win these awards isn’t because of my subpar writing chops (well, maybe). It’s not even the fact that I’m entirely too young. Rather, it’s because of the fact that I have discovered a deep love for genre fiction that assures me I’ll never find myself on a reading list for the AP English scholars of the future. I do find solace in the fact that Stephen King lives a pretty awesome life and he’s still Nobel-less (which is a shame).

It wasn’t until recently that I let go of my delusion that I had to read–and write–literary, purple-fied literature in order to be considered a “real” reader. Aside from Harry Potter, I would only read books that someone, somewhere, had dubbed a “contemporary work of art.” If there was no golden ribbon on the cover, I wouldn’t touch it. On the upside, I looked pretty awesome and well-read at park benches across the South. Unfortunately, I mostly ended up closing the back cover of my books having gained hardly more than a sweat stain on my lower back.

Like any good English student, I made my way through works by Homer, Heller, and Shakespeare, loving my looks and hating my life. I was on a literary diet of fish and bread—surviving but not thriving. I had the essentials but, I hate to say it, my reading life was boring and confusing. While I did and do love some works by these authors, I had to ask myself: is this what it would mean to be literary? Will my future writing cause this much unnecessary suffering and pain to the people I love?

It was only after I started my warehouse job a couple years ago that I dropped the persona. Working 40 hours a week refurbishing beat up cable boxes was torture enough. Listening to audiobooks that required me to annotate and wiki would not be a good idea. So I started reading books that were—gasp!—popular. I read books that were recommended to me by my easygoing, paperback-wielding peers. In this way I discovered my secret lover Gillian Flynn (oops, shouldn’t have said that out loud!) and finally got around to reading the majority of Stephen King’s collection.

And you know what? Reading is fun now. Books keep me turning pages, they keep me up at night, they make me afraid to shower alone. I’ve finally found characters that literally speak to me in my dreams, and authors that I obsess over more than the new crew of Victoria’s Secret models, which is saying something.

I may never be a prize-winning author. Or, maybe I will. Either way, I’m learning that I don’t have to sacrifice my personal entertainment for “art.” I read books, and that alone makes me awesome.


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