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Reading: A Blast from the Past

Updated: Jul 24, 2021

Recently, I've gotten back into the habit of reading. As a child, I was a voracious reader devouring as many 2-5 books a day. I would use books as an excuse for my introversion, leaving a party to go find a quiet corner where I could just sit and read. It was my parents, both of whom were avid readers themselves, who got me into reading. They'd tell me stories when I was younger, and then as I got older, I decided I wanted direct access to this wonderful world of adventures myself. I finished the entire Harry Potter series at age 8 in two weeks. And y'know what? As well-made and magnificent the movies were, nothing was as magical as the books.

I loved reading because it allowed me to access my imagination in ways I couldn't anticipate. When I read, I could see things through my mind's eye and hear the voices of the characters the way I imagined them. When I read Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, it was like I was there in the factory, smelling the rich fragrance of molten chocolate fill the air, tasting the fruit flavored wallpaper, and gazing at the magnificent Willy Wonka with his tiny oompa loompa workers.

Reading also made me a better writer. I had a better vocabulary than most kids my age, and often used words that made me seem like a pretentious British royal with a crown and a twirly mustache, often saying "cheerio" instead of goodbye, or gasping the words "oh my!" to display astonishment, thanks to the countless number of Enid Blyton books I read.

But as I grew older, the books I once pored over, lay in a corner collecting dust, while I either started watching television shows that didn't require me to pay as much as attention as a book would, or used my remaining brain power to think of things that a teenage girl found more pertinent: boys, romcoms, how much I longed to leave the house, and just the meaning of existence and my life’s purpose. When I did read, it was an inconsistent process and I was either unable and/or unwilling to finish the whole book. I'd often re-read old childhood favorites to recount the memories of a simpler time though.

In my early twenties, I was also faced with the reality of moving to the US to study, making friends and creating a new life, and so reading wasn't really a priority unless it was for one of my classes. But I did miss it.

But this break between college and starting grad school, in as attempt to further educate myself on social justice issues and read about the history of the US (because I'm going to start my masters in social justice journalism at Northwestern University), I decided to start downloading books and reading consistently again. And I loved it.

See, another reason, I was worried about reading again was because most people have started to read online. It's cheaper, saves paper and is far more convenient. But because so many of my memories are associated with the musty smell of the physical copy of a book, and actually turning the crisp pages to read, I was a bit skeptical about about the impersonal nature of a virtual book, with the glare of the screen and no rustling sound when I turn the page with a swipe of my finger.

I must admit I'm still attached to the physical form of reading but it's definitely more convenient to find books on my reading list online and read them. And within the past two days, I've loved falling back into my old dreamy world of books. Obviously the things I read about are a little more sophisticated than chocolate factories and students on holidays, but the earlier allure of the written word has still stood the test of time in a way no visual media will ever be able to compete.

I've read the story of Emmett Till a 14-year-old boy who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 because of his race, as recounted by his mother Mamie Till, and about the suffragettes' struggle to secure the vote for women and the various political actors involved in that. Even though the subject matter is certainly heavy, it is written in such a simple and beautiful way, making the reader realize how the abstract of ideals like race and sex are tied to the practicalities of the individual. Reading these stories about the pain of these injustices reminds me of my own responsibility to be aware of how far we've come and how far we still have to go.

So, I implore you the reader of this blog, however you may have stumbled upon this post to pick up (or download!) a book, and read. You may be surprised about what you learn, but I've never met a person who hasn't been better off after picking up a book and beginning the journey of imbibing the written word.

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