Reading Is Bliss
My first real "book-fatuation" (I know it's not exactly a sexy made-up word, but bear with me here), was for that childhood gem, Charlotte's Web.
I had flirted with Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton before this. Had a passing affair with Anne of Green Gables. But Charlotte's Web was the first book to really crawl under my skin. I was sad, mad, shocked and then a quivering mess at the injustice of it all.
Fast forward a few years, and The Stand became my new favourite book, introducing me to what would become one of my most treasured genres: post-apocalyptic fiction.
Other books came and went. There were the Steinbeck years, when I became obsessed with first The Grapes of Wrath, then East of Eden, that remained for the longest time, my best-loved book.
Because of the huge response to last week's blog post, I've decided to write a clarification.
It seems that some Stuff readers last week thought my post meant that I would stop boys or girls from reading books, simply because they have main characters that's not of the appropriate gender. No, this is not true. I'm opposed to gender marketing of books - a very different and in actual fact, opposing, issue.
If anyone of the naysayers had looked up the "Let Books Be Books" or "Let Toys Be Toys" campaigns that I mentioned, they would very quickly realise this.
It also amused me to no end to have people calling me the "thought police" and "too PC". Let's examine this: "thought police" is a reference to George Orwell's 1984, a novel about totalitarian governments.
My blog post sought to make people think about the choices we make in life and for our children - and whether the beliefs they display now about gender is a reflection of biology or culture. So...I was actually doing the opposite of thought policing, I was inviting people to get out of their comfort zones and think for themselves.
The lovely Nick Barnett over at Four Legs Good sent me the link to a great article by Katy Guest, literary editor of The Independent on Sunday - where she declared they would no longer be reviewing gender-specific children's books.
It was a big line in the sand to draw, and I say "Ms Guest, this is long overdue".
We don't live in a post-feminist society, despite what Miley Cyrus and her other sparkly fairy friends believe. We live in a world where gender discrimination is still embedded on many levels - where pre-teens (that's girls as young as 6, which I think most people would agree is too young) are being sold padded bikini tops in chain stores.
Yes, things have improved immeasurably for women since the 1950's, but are those really the times we want to hold up as a benchmark? The price of freedom, as they say, is eternal vigilance. I am of the firm belief that true equality cannot be achieved until we get buy-in from the other 50 per cent of the equation - men.
And there's no better place to start than the small and impressionable. Let all parents start with their children. They are still relatively moldable clay, without too many pre-conceptions (or at least few that can't still be changed) about the world around them.
GUEST BLOG BY ROHANI ALEXANDER
I know I talked about my birthday last time. But as birthdays go, it was an unusually good one, because my Beloved Non-Reader got me a Kindle. As I confided to Facebook, he doesn't always do presents, but when he does, they're freaking good ones.
I've ummed and aahed for a couple of years about whether I actually wanted an e-reader. I didn't (and still don't) know much about them. I'm one of those people who like to own and hold a real thing. I still use CDs, DVDs and of course, books. But over Christmas, when the BN-R and I got a rare chance to go shopping together, I ended up hefting a couple in my hands and discussing their possible merits with him.
It was still a shock to open one up on my birthday morning. It's not the latest bells and whistles, touch screen, backlit, it's really a tablet, Kindle Fire job. It's pretty basic. But I love it. I think about it all day. A whole new world has opened up.
I actually agonised over what to get first. Something I wouldn't normally prioritise, but should read. Something I wouldn't go to the trouble of getting from the library, borrowing from a friend or buying a hard copy of. Of course, something I don't already own. I ended up getting Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. I read the first paragraph to see if the screen annoyed me. It didn't.
As a little girl, I was often the funny kid in the corner who nearly grew cross-eyed from reading too much.
I was never a cool teenager. That is, I didn't experiment with cigarettes, wag school (much, only on one occasion and I got caught...of course) or even drink alcohol. Even at uni, my worst sins were missing lectures, drinking too much cheap beer, and spending my pitiful part-time wages on things like awful clothes and occasionally, when I was feeling rebellious, pretty tame recreational drugs.
All the above is a roundabout way of saying that I'm an introvert. Sure, I can be chatty and outgoing when need be. I work in a field that requires me to speak to other people and be personable. But my dream is to hide behind the anonymity of the computer screen.
I sneak away from social and after-work gatherings at grandma hours, enjoy nothing better than an early night in with a good book, and my favourite activity during weekends is to laze in bed surrounded by a pile of books and maybe some snacks and wine. From anecdotal experience, many dedicated readers feel the same way I do.
Which begs the question: is there something about reading that encourages people to be introverts?
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