“One day, I’m gonna write something as good as this”: A “My Bookprint” guest post
By Guest Blogger on July 27th, 2012
Rebecca En-Szu Hu-Van Wright, a summer Scholastic Art & Writing Fellow, shares her Bookprint.
Growing up as the kid of two children’s book illustrators meant that throughout my childhood our tiny little apartment was packed, literally to the ceiling, with books (including the books from Nadia’s Book Nostalgia post, the entire Sweet Valley Kids series – my mom illustrated those while I was growing up!). It still is, actually: no matter how many we donate or give away, I’m still finding books peeking out behind houseplants or hanging out under the sofa with the dust bunnies. I trip over them in the foyer and find them stuffed under the bathroom sink. They turn up under mattresses and in pillowcases, fill the bookshelves past their intended capacity, and on occasion even make guest appearances in our freezer. In my family, books are multipurpose tools: books are used as doorstoppers and paperweights; books are stacked precariously high to make impromptu end tables; books are used as coasters and flyswatters and bookmarks for other books. But even though they hogged the bed and got underfoot when I tried to get to school on time, books were always there for me and bore witness to all my joys and miseries. To pick only five that influenced my life in any major way would be an impossible task. Instead, I choose to view the following selections as a few very personal landmarks in a timeline overpopulated with books, all contributing to my life in ways exciting and unexpected.
The Watsons Go To Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis was important for me because I read it while was going through that weird early stage of identity crisis that begins at seven and ends when you die, and this book was so funny I actually cried from laughter for the first time in my life. The book deals with some really deep issues (segregation, adolescence in the 60s, familial dysfunction), but does so through an honest humor that makes you realize so much about the human experience and what it means to be a person.
Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison was a significant book for me for a number of reasons. It was the first book I had to purchase on my own with my allowance money, and the first (and only) book I had to hide from my parents. Because my mother is a ninja, she eventually found it and threw it away. I cried because I realized I should have just spent my money on that Good Charlotte CD I wanted instead, but in the end I think that Rennison’s brilliant writing has had a much more lasting influence on my life than any post-pop-punk-wannabe album ever could. Her zany language, memorable protagonist, and spot-on depiction of teenage life helped me to maintain a sense of humor throughout my own hellish adolescence. I learned that growing up didn’t need to be scary; it could be funny, if you looked at it the right way.
I also can’t look back on my adolescence without remembering a number of extremely frilly tween titles that my friends and I would exchange on a daily basis. But the one series that really stuck with me was the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. We laughed and cried and obsessed over those books! The girls felt so incredibly real to me, something that I rarely found in other books about teenagers (with the exception of Chris Crutcher books, which are an entirely different story). I felt like those girls were my own friends, and as crazy as it sounds I think that it was because of those books that I still have such awesome friendships with the girls I shared them with.
I read The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver when I was out sick with the flu at age fourteen. It was one of the many books lying about near the sofa where I had parked my invalid self for the day, and since I recognized it as one of the few remaining books in the apartment that I hadn’t read yet I figured I’d give it a try. I fell in love immediately. It was heartbreaking and hilarious all at once. Taylor Greer is, to this day, still my favorite fictional heroine (or anti-heroine?). It was the beginning of my Kingsolver phase, and the first time I read a book that made me say “One day, I’m gonna write something as good as this.”
White Teeth by Zadie Smith sticks out to me the most. Growing up as a mixed kid can make you very confused, and makes being a teenager that much harder. White Teeth taught me how to be brave and be okay with not having any idea which way is right-side up. Reading such an accurate depiction of the problems I faced every day was remarkably therapeutic. Zadie Smith is the greatest – she tackles the rough edges of life with brainy wit, thoughtfully exploring uncomfortable social issues and making readers (at times painfully) aware of how we perceive our fellow human beings.
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