Daya Thiara is an intern at Scholastic this summer, and a rising senior at the University of Oregon, where she double-majoring in Advertising and Cinema Studies. After two years of college under pandemic restrictions, Daya returned to campus last fall and looks forward to hitting senior year in person. She is an amateur podcaster with an interest in writing for television after graduation.
Books have always felt like a refreshing escape from reality. Growing up during a time where access to information and being fed pointed content was on the rise, getting lost in a story made all of the outside noise go quiet for a bit. I have found that books have a much more positive impact on me than anything else. I have always thought about reading as a very personal experience. Sure, it’s great to be able to talk about your favorite stories with others who also enjoyed them, but my favorite part of reading has been internalizing lessons and ways of thinking. When I was tasked with choosing five books that have had an impact on me, I thought it would be impossible to pick just five. I decided to make my choices a timeline of my life.
The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne: This was the first book series that I truly fell in love with. The part that has always stuck with me has been the fact that siblings Jack and Annie got to go on all of these exciting adventures together. Growing up, my parents always told me that my siblings would be my best friends and I would roll my eyes because how could my annoying little sister and these two boys be my best friends?! That has all changed as we’ve grown up and are having our own Jack and Annie adventures together, minus the Magic Tree House unfortunately. Now that I am an adult, my siblings are my best friends and I love them a lot. (But don’t tell them I said that, they’re still super annoying!)
The Babysitters Club series by Ann M. Martin: The Babysitters Club showed me that there is nothing stronger than a bond between girl-friends and there is no need to be anything other than yourself. My formative years were spent consuming stories through all mediums that told me that most girls were mean. I believed I had to be “different than other girls'' in order to be liked. I was cautious of the friends I brought into my life because all of the books I was reading and movies and TV shows I was watching and advertisements I was seeing throughout my day told me that girls were not normally nice. The characters in The Babysitters Club had their moments, but their adventures made me actually want to become friends with them, because why wouldn’t I want to hang out with girls like these? Kristy, Claudia, Maryanne, Dawn, Stacey, Jessi, and Mallory are a group of friends that are incredibly kind to each other and I am happy to be able to have my own group of women who want nothing but the best for each other too.
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf: Growing up in the age of social media has been a very interesting experience, to say the least. There is so much access to everything. There are also very effective ways to advertise using social media. The Beauty Myth was published before mainstream social media existed, but the message is stronger than ever right now. The pressures that women face to look a certain way and the way that we are told to view ourselves if we don’t look that way is incredibly harmful. I was coming to an age where I wanted people to think that I was pretty and funny and cool, and social media was defining those things in a toxic way. I became open to changing parts of myself to fit the words I was seeing on screen, and then my aunt gave me this book. The words in this book changed everything for me. I would recommend it to every young person. After reading it, I realized how dangerous The Beauty Myth is and how these standards for women are intentionally unattainable. I am now able to go through my day and look at everything through a much more critical lens. The pressures that were crushing me, don’t bother me much anymore. Sometimes the negative feelings come back up, but I remember this book and tell myself to stop.
Normal People by Sally Rooney: “Why are you so quiet, Daya?” has been a phrase that I have heard my entire life. It used to make me feel bad and also anxious because I felt like I had to constantly have something to say. Silence has also been sort of villainized, at least from my perspective. The Silent Treatment is immature and petty. People think that if you have nothing to say it means you aren’t smart enough to be able to add to this super important conversation. They see you as hard to read, and think that’s a bad thing. Normal People changed my whole perspective on this. I got to go on a journey with two characters who used silence as a form of communication. When they had nothing to say, they didn’t say anything, and that was perfectly okay. The silence was comfortable for them, so now my silence is comfortable for me.
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney: I was hoping not to have two books by the same author in this bookprint, however I had to include this novel. I always knew that there was this thing that I looked for in people when I brought them into my life, but I didn’t know what that thing was. All of the people in my life are so different from one another, so what is it that made me choose to keep them? Why do I like these people? Conversations with Friends answered these questions for me and the relief after wondering for so long was amazing. The overlapping stories and different characters in this novel made me realize that the thing that I am always looking for in people is self-reflection. If someone has the ability to recognize their faults and is open to allowing change and growth into their life, I am immediately drawn towards them. This novel has contrasting characters, ones that are able to do that, and ones that aren’t. Self-reflection is a critical part of my value system and Conversations with Friends unlocked the part of my mind that needed to know that.
I am sure that my bookprint will change as I get older, gain new experiences, meet new people, and of course, read more books. However, these feel like a solid five for where I am in my life at the moment. Books have always had the most power over changing the way that I think and feel and experience and live and I am very glad for that. I wouldn’t want anything else to be able to have that effect on me.