Entangled As A Reader

I read The Diary Of Anne Frank when I was twelve or thirteen. I remember laying on the bottom bunk in the room my sister and I shared, sobbing because Anne wouldn’t grow up. She wouldn’t explore kissing or become a teacher. I closed the book and found Mom. I needed her to hold me. I felt Anne’s loss in my body: the abrupt cut in her diary cut me, deeply, because as long as I had pages to turn she and I were the same dreaming adolescent.

As a kid, I lived in my head. I was always making things up (re: imagining, lying, pretending), carrying the make-believe into real life. This a fantastic way to live as a kid. Even now. But a shift occurred in my pretend when I began reading chapter books. I got sucked into The Boxcar Children and The Littles and Little House On The Prairie. These series gave me templates for pretend, the last, a frontier that I held onto long past wearing a calico bonnet Mom made me, tramping through the backyard. Through high school and into college, I continued reading other frontier fiction like O Pioneers! and Giants In The Earth as well as pioneer women’s diaries. I loved imagining that was my life.

Small leap to think that one reason I determined to move abroad was that frontier fantasy.

Most reading is entanglement with an end. Narrative holds me for its pages, and a little after, or when I remember a title. There are books I remember single lines or scenes from, and I close my eyes, remembering two things at once: my experience as a reader (the surprise, sorrow, pleasure, humor) and my experience as a character, when I lived that line or scene. Isn’t that why we read at all? To go live another life, wearing new skin, looking out through another’s eyes? Don’t we read to entangle ourselves in a place that isn’t the one we’re planted in?

I get entangled in these other lives and find characters who aren’t so different from me: Anne in her diary, wanting; Gauri in The Lowland, not wanting. There’s an ache and joy in finding our own secret or fault in someone else’s hand, turning the pages of their loss and gain. Such beauty in recognizing and connecting with characters, practicing empathy.

There is always more. Please post a book you got entangled in.

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