Read It And Share

Already a month since I’ve darkened these pages? Oops? I had intended for once a week, but I guess adjusting to this new life has caused that to temporarily fall off of the table. I shall make no further promises of the sort, but well we’ll just see what happens.

In today’s post, I thought I would discuss a big way that my wife and I are merging and/or sharing hobbies: that of consuming the written word. As I’ve noted before, I have to remember that allowing parts of myself to be shared with my partner and her with me is probably one of the most important things we can do for each other. Not as easy as it should be for one who has largely grown up in his own bubble most of the time.

RELATED: On Sharing

In addition to, and derived from, many of the NPR stories I referred to in the linked post, I have generated a vast love for reading. I like to think, perhaps wrongly but whatever, that I now have a decent understanding of the kinds of books those closest to me might enjoy. In an attempt to introduce my wife to the joys of reading for pleasure (she helps kids learn to read for academic reasons with the idea that it might extend to pleasurable consumption and does a great job at that) I opted for a title that is considered Young Adult (YA). Not too complicated or long and easily relatable to those of us who grew up in low-income households. This book is entitled Piecing Me Together, by Renee Watson.

The gist of Watson’s story is that mentoring can be a powerful, but also challenging, way to help bring people up. We follow Jade, a 16-year-old living in supposedly rough North Portland, Oregon. Jade already has aspirations to attend college, but her main immediate goal is to visit a Spanish-speaking country in the school’s study abroad program. Every chapter is given a Spanish title in fact with its English translation.

The story gets more complex as Jade encounters racism in the stores, is fat-shamed, and generally made to question her very essence. One of the school’s staff, Mrs. Parker, recommends Jade to a program called Woman To Woman, where persons are paired with mentors who also attended the elite school to which Jade has been admitted. Maxine, her mentor, has all kinds of difficulties herself that revolve mostly around relationships and job choices. This of course effects her interactions with Jade as well.

I like the pacing of the book: even as a somewhat difficult topic one still enjoys the humor that is throughout the story. I also appreciate the many references to Jade’s bus rides and the people she meets onboard, one of whom turns out to be a really good friend until their relationship also hits some snags. I often end up reading the bus ride scenes as I take my own commute with people who are all familiar to each other and now to me as well.

Every time my wife reads it for a bit, she manages to shoot way past me and I must then catch up. She still has surprisingly good comprehension of the content, probably due to having to learn scan-reading for academic purposes. I, on the other hand, must pick my way along slowly. But the important thing is that we are taking this in together, and it gives us something else to discuss beside life’s usual stressors. She has suggested that we do a classic, a biography and a historical nonfiction piece of some kind, and I am down with this idea.

This is not our first attempt at such an endeavor. We started Kindred, by Octavia Butler, way back in 2015 (boggles my mind that it’s been three years already!) but then life intervened. Butler is also well known for her ground-breaking science fiction meets black history stories though, and if you haven’t read that one I would recommend it. It seems to have heavily influenced another, more recent, one that I read called Long Division, which I may have written about previously in this journal.

So we have reading, some NPR, and of course the near constant ragging over Carolina/Duke that will be especially intense at this time of year. If you have a partner now, what kinds of things are you doing to share enjoyment and de-stress together?

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