My dad paid no attention to what I read. He said things like, “I sure am glad you like to read.” Pause. “Do you have to keep every book though?”
Mom had no rules. I could read what I pleased. Grandmother often repeated how when my mother was a teenager, she was always taking other people’s books. “I could never leave a book on its own,” my grandmother said. “I wouldn’t find it for days because your mother would be reading it in her room.”
My mom used to say, “You’ll never write a good book if you think your mother will read it. I promise not to read anything you write if that will help. Or I’ll read everything if you ask me to.”
Did you ever get in trouble for what you were reading? for what you were writing? What kind of rules should parents have about books for the kids?
6 thoughts on “Been Caught Reading”
Unless it was a lit course, trouble came in the form of novels and short stories which I was drawn to and as opposed to the text books I was assigned. I’ve had the FBI “asking” deans and employers about me because of things I’d written, not rabble rousing or anarchist sorts of things, but rather the questioning kinds of things and stories, intimations that not enough people had read Tom Paine.
These last two entries about your early reading experiences are hauntingly effective, and the photos of your mom’s inscriptions to you underscore two remarkable presences–hers and yours.
I come from a family of readers and one of the best (and sometimes only) way I can communicate with my family is to talk about books.
I remember my grandmother reading with a magnifying glass in her old age, almost one word at a time.
My parents left me alone with my writing, though my mom in one afternoon at the kitchen table with me in tears helped my writing more than any other person, I think.
When my dad read my writing, on the rare occassions I would show him, he said, “You repeat yourself too much.” I think of him often when I I sit down to write, and his words are always on my mind when I edit. But I still like to repeat myself.
We didn’t buy books much when I was a child so I rode my bike to the library every Saturday. They had a limit: 10 books at a time, only two “new” books at a time. I always checked out the limit. My only restriction was access- not any parental limitations.
Same with my two kids- if they wanted to read something, fine- though if it was violent I did offer a word of caution. By the time they were teenagers their were no limits- especialyl after being assigned books like Clockwork Orange in Sophomore English.
Their stepmom had more opinions about their reading- strangely, she felt that my daughter (a great reader and a gifted writer) shouldn’t read certain books “too soon”- not because of violent or sexual content, but because she wouldn’t understand the psychological complexities of a book like “My Antonia” when she was thirteen. A weird form of censorship-“this book is beyond your comprehension.” What’s the harm in that? And how else do we grow?
As for writing, the only time I’ve gotten in trouble is iwht my first published book- I managed to offend some people who felt that what I was writing about was too private. Ironically, I regret that I held back as much as I did- never again.
No rules ever laid down that I remember, although I wasn’t above (below?) sneaking glimpses into “adult” books well before I had any business doing so. I may have been yelled at by a teacher once or twice for reading something other than what I was supposed to be reading (which I wasn’t doing at the time because I’d already finished). I sometimes think that my parents were pretty much making up what it meant to be parents as they went along, but must admit they made some righteous choices (or non-choices, as the case may be).
I absolutely have in the past “adjusted” my writing because, well, what if X reads it? what will s/he think of me? will it draw a rebuke? But I think I’m past that now. People will read what they want into anything written, including judgments upon their character allegedly held by me, what sort of person I must be to be using such language in public, and so on.
I read everything I could get my hands on, from text books to shakespeare to my moms romance novels to science fiction. That’s how I found out about sex. There were no rules about what i could read. I was reading adult books by….,,mmm 12 or so. For a couple of years there, I was reading a novel, sometimes two a day.
I did get into trouble for always reading around my grandfather. “Where is reading going to get yo uin life!” he said to me, curmudgeon style. And I didn’t respond, because it had just gotten me a scholarship to college. Now here I am a writer and teacher and such. I wonder what grandpa would say now.
I was never censored in what I read – When I was young I never read anything that would be questioned anyway. I hope to introduce my son to so much more.
I love what your mother said, “You’ll never write a good book if you think your mother will read it. I promise not to read anything you write if that will help. Or I’ll read everything if you ask me to.” Wow! Wish my mom would say that! I think a huge part of my writing blocks comes just because of that – I don’t want her to read it. Your mom was very wise.