March is National Reading Awareness Month and I couldn’t think of a better time to jump back into one of my favorite pastimes… READING! As a youngster, I got into trouble at home and at school a lot and subsequently spent several hours, days, and weeks in my room on punishment. What came as a result was a love for reading and writing. The latter is now a part of my livelihood so I suppose everything worked out.
At some point, between high school and college, I got incredibly busy and due to the fact that I was required to read so much for school (most of which was not at all enjoyable) I had little interest in reading for pleasure anymore. As my life changed, I felt the need to go back to the activities that always brought me joy as a form of self-care. Reading was one of those things. Another was coloring books and watching cooking shows.
This month, I celebrated Reading Awareness Month by finishing not one but two books! Last month, I finished (after five loooong months) Kindred by Octavia Butler but I am still processing so I will probably write about that at a later date. (Sidenote: If you haven’t read it and are interested in Butler’s work, I would suggest Kindred as a good introduction. I plan to get into more of the science-fiction stuff later this year)
The two books I chose to read were autobiographical in nature. I guess one could say that I was born to be a researcher of some sort because I love to learn as much as I can, especially about people I find fascinating. One of the first books I remember reading that sparked this desire to know others’ life paths was I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou. My sixth grade teacher, Karen Chambers, gifted it to me along with a few volumes of her poetry and the follow-up book Singin and Swingin and Gettin Merry Like Christmas which infamously detailed her journey as an adult stage performer. Some may feel like that particular choice was quite risque’ for a preteen but for me, it was the perfect challenge and kept me interested. Another was a children’s book on Queen Nzinga of Angola gifted to me by my late grandmother Virginia B. Ryder.
Since then, I’ve always wanted to know more about people. What their fears and failures are. The embarrassing things that led them to grow into who they are today. The best stories are the ones that leave you thinking “Oh gosh! I can’t believe they wrote that!” similar to when your best friend tells you a juicy secret. You feel like you’ve been let in on something special and sacred. That’s how Maya Angelou always made me feel.
The late Dr. Angelou said this about my first selection, Common’s One Day It’ll All Make Sense, “Common’s story is the story of all young people trying to grow up. His saga reminds the reader that love liberates and poverty cripples. Common writes beautifully, like the poet he is.”
I bought the book at a speaking engagement Common had here in town about a month ago and had it signed for my little brother (The Golden Child) as he is an upcoming MC/actor/everything under the sun … much like Common. As I walked out of the hotel ballroom that evening with a few friends I was on cloud nine. Common shared so much of his life with the hundreds of folks in attendance that evening and like any good storyteller you felt like he was talking directly to you.
I started thumbing through the book on our way out and instantly got hooked. I couldn’t put it down. I carried it everywhere, on the bus, to the bar crawl with my buddies (like a damn nerd! lol), the operating room for a quick procedure … everywhere! I finished it and was sad when it was over! I wanted to know more. Common talked about his childhood, awkward first sexual encounters, his long trek to stardom, rejection, spirituality, love, grief and more intertwined with letters penned by he and his mother commenting on all of the aforementioned topics from their perspectives. It was a great read and rekindled my love for his music. Also bought back a few memories as well. The album Finding Forever was my freshman year soundtrack at Ball State. The Universal Mind Control album marked my wild years as a junior/senior. Two of my exes dedicated the songs I Used to Love H.E.R and Come Close to me (more on that in a later post!) I took away so much appreciation for his gifts and I can’t wait to give this gift to my brother.
My second selection this month came from a friend of mine, Samantha Pounds. Samantha is a gifted PR professional and now a published author and relationship expert! LOL Samantha’s book Love Falls on Deaf Ears and Hears Clearly follows her journey of attempting to navigate this whole love thing as a young Black woman. It is a quick read and very relatable for anyone who has tried and failed at the dating game. Samantha shares quite intimately her experiences with heartbreak, interracial dating and ultimately finding love with a man who happens to have a disability. Samantha’s now fiance’ and inspiration for the book, Clark is deaf. When I first learned of Clark being deaf, I remember being so intrigued! I wanted to know how he and Samantha met, how they communicate with each other, everything. Yes, I’m nosy as hell but lucky for me (and all my fellow nosy folks) she wrote a book and gave us the full 411. This too, is a story I’d recommend to anyone, especially those looking to “date outside the box,” a suggestion Samantha mentions as a worthwhile alternative for lonely hearts several times throughout the book.
Also, in recognition of this amazing month the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper will be publishing a special issue this Friday (March 25) all about Reading Awareness so I would encourage you to pick up a copy. Also, we’ll be hosting an Author’s Meet-Up on Saturday March 26 at Indy Reads Books located at 911 Massachusetts Avenue from 11AM-1PM. Admission is free and all aspiring writers, authors, and storytellers are encouraged to attend. There will be a networking session as well as a panel discussion with local authors. For more information check out the event page on Facebook.