Monday, December 19, 2011

Funky Sexy Manifesto # 17 Read One Book Each Month

(This photograph of an African-American girl pictured is dated in the Construction period which is post-slavery. However this image reminds me of my mother in rural Jamaica, complete with plaits and ribbons in her hair almost one hundred years later.)

I love to read A-L-O-T. As a child, I remember reading books on summer vacations and March Break. My father would take my sister and I to our local library where we would load up on a weekly dose of books. Eventually, there was a Bookmobile (a library on wheels) that came to my neighbourhood and I would search it for great finds. I would often order books from other libraries too.

First, I had an obsession with reading books about countries and people from around the world. I loved to memorize facts, greetings, populations, flags, and capital cities. I loved atlases and maps. My parents had a few at home and I would use pencil and paper to copy facts and state capitals of the US.

As I approached my middle years, I started to read "The Little House on the Prairie" series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I loved these stories of a pioneering frontier family living in the rugged Ozarks and other far off places. Through the books, I began to watch the television series that was popular in the 1970s and 1980s.

I also loved the show Reading Rainbow hosted by LeVar Burton.

LeVar Burton

In my younger years and throughout my teens into adulthood, I began to read books by mostly African-American writers. (Although, I read my share of Babysitters' Club, Sweet Valley High, and Judy Blume books.) I started to learn Caribbean songs and to read poetry and gritty urban fiction by Walter Dean Myers, Rosa Guy, and Rita Williams-Garcia. Then I graduated to Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Terri MacMillan, Zora Neale Hurston, and bell hooks. I also loved magazines like Essence, Ebony, TBY (Today's Black Youth, now defunct), World and Owl (as a child), Ms., Seventeen, Shape, Self, and others.

I also had a number of phases in which I read everything I could possibly read on particular topics including The Guinness Book of World Records, trivia, the Titanic, the human body, psychology, African-American leaders and pioneers, slavery, the Underground Railroad, urban romance novels, the Jacksons, circus sideshows, biographies, relationships, creative non-fiction like Malcolm Gladwell, faith, and self-help books. Often I read books about my own culture and Black people because I learned nothing about it in school but longed to know more and see faces and experiences that were more closer to my own.

Most recently, as you can tell through my reviews, my reading has incorporated books on healing, Blackness, cancer, cooking, alternative health, animal rights, spirituality, and veganism.

When I made the Funky Sexy Manifesto #17 Read One Book Each Month resolution, I did not think it was possible to do given my busy schedule. Returning to work, a daily commute in my car, self-care, appointments, and other commitments seemed to make this resolution seem impossible. However, a change in the method of how I got to work made this a possibility.

A few weeks ago, I thought of selling my car which is getting on in years. Before finalizing this decision, I did a week-long trial run to depend on public transit, taking the bus and subway wherever I needed to go. I did that for week and found it to be quite comfortable. I got a lot of reading done that week-- 1 or 2 books, as well as editing a chapter of my novel.

Toronto's newest subways... I travel in style. (When I'm on this one, I feel like I'm in another city... like Tokyo, London, or even Paris.)

So when I went back to driving my car for one day, it felt quite odd. I immediately felt less relaxed and I did not get any reading done. For these and other reasons (like financial? yes, financial, no more traffic tickets, speeding tickets, wrong turn tickets, paid parking, insurance, repairs, Ughhh!!!), I think my decision became clear. Reading helps me to expand the knowledge and understanding of my healing journey. It helps me to feel more empowered as I deal with challenges in my life. I also learn a lot from books and I love to learn. Reading is a political act. Add this to the fact that I have no cable for my television (no channels), I'm selecting materials that engage and challenge me intellectually. Reading is also political since my enslaved African ancestors would have been severely punished for reading or being taught to read. As a result, many slaves taught themselves to read with a page from the Bible or were taught in secret by other literate slaves or compassionate White people.

By taking public transit, I could read a lot more than one book each month. In fact, I have read at least one book each week. (As of today, I have finished my sixth book, Race & Well-Being, in one month.) At no other time in my professional life have I read such a large number of works in such a short time. Time has always been in short supply and no more is that true than when I am working.

I am blessed to live now in an area of the city where I can access reliable transportation so I could focus on my reading and not being stranded. (Been there, done that.)

I am also blessed to have access to an excellent library system, The Toronto Public Libraries, which is the largest in Canada and the busiest in North America. I hope to write books one day that are equally as helpful, inspiring, and informative as the ones I have been reading.

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