Written by Courtney B Lance
World Book Day – passed slyly by causing me a bit of consternation. Time passes much too quickly and there never seems to be enough to enjoy some of the things I would love to do. I love cooking, for instance, but it doesn’t really count because I get to do it by necessity. Then there is reading. I love to read but just can’t seem to find enough dedicated time to get that done.
I remember fondly one extraordinary day some time ago when I was able, regularly, to give into my reading yen. (I had less responsibilities then and much more time to myself). I had recently been introduced to Isabel Allende, a Chilean native. Her storytelling was, and continues to be vivid, imaginative and mystical. She propelled me into the worlds in which she set her novels, and always made it difficult for me to get back to my own. I was a willing victim in her prolepsis. I traveled with her because it all worked for me. During my first encounter with Allende on that extraordinary Sunday she handily swept me away. I remember it vividly. I arrived home from an early mass, ate a bit of breakfast and then situated myself in an oversize chair that had been around for decades (gifted to me when I bought my first home. I’m sure it was at least a decade old when I received it). It was the most comfortable chair on which I have ever placed my backside. It embraced me, engulfed me even, as did her book – Eva Luna. From sun-up to sun down, I sat there moving only occasionally to visit the bathroom. It was an amazing journey and quite magical. I believe I finished the book in that one sitting.
I haven’t had an experience like that in many many years, at least not until I read Picking Cotton, a memoir by Jennifer Thompson on her rape and the wrongful conviction of Ronald Cotton the alleged rapist. The setting is different, of course the writing is different – it’s a memoir not a novel – the chair long gone, sadly, but the read? Just as mesmerizing and just as captivating. At this point in my life I certainly didn’t have the time to devote to this book as I did Eva Luna, but I spent all of the free time I had engrossed in this compelling and tragic story of a man who was misidentified and sent to prison for 10 years for a crime he didn’t commit. I read into the night, during my lunch, on the rides to and from work; whatever time I had I read. Picking Cotton, by the way wasn’t the only book; reading it led me hungrily to others. There were so many other folks who were wrongfully convicted whose
books turned me around and inside and out, The Killing Season, Full Circle, and of course Pruno, Ramen and a Side of Hope. (Ok I am partly responsible for writing this book, but I have read it over and over and it is always a compelling, emotional, and engaging read.)
It’s my own fault that making time for reading escapes me. I have so many interests. I sing, I draw and paint, I make jewelry. I play games and watch soccer with my husband. Getting all of these wonderful past-times into my daily life is difficult especially when there, too, is a demanding job. But I do myself a disservice by not devoting time to reading and have come to realize that those things other than spending time with my husband, while important, aren’t as necessary. There is so much generosity in books. They provide context to my life in so many ways and afford a different perspective for situations and events where I may have hastily judged. We have books everywhere in our home, and I make time to read if just for a snatch of time, whenever I sit. Reading is a rewarding experience, its enlightening, and it’s a way to feel connected to others and their life stories through this experience.
I appreciate World Book Day and will never let this special day elude my radar again. I hope you’ll pick up a book and find as much enjoyment in the experience of traveling with the author wherever they take you as I did with Eva Luna and Picking Cotton and of course Pruno Ramen and a Side of Hope!