Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday Salon: HOW MY MOTHER RAISED A REBEL READER


Today is the start of Banned Books Week! I was unaware of this event until I became a blogger. Since I discovered it I've participated every year. This year I'm participating in this event hosted by BOOK JOURNEY. I'll be reviewing a book this Thursday that deeply resonates with me and is important for all young adults. There is also a giveaway so be sure to come visit.
 
 
 
I will also be spotlighting some other banned books that I love, but today I want to talk about my Mother. See my Mother was a Rebel!

I was raised in a house covered in books. From my earliest memories my Mother read to me everyday. I visited Camelot, Sherwood Forest, and Narnia. I learned about Aesop's fables  and also The Brothers Grimm fairy tales.
One of my favorite childhood books  however was one of the most controversial books  amongst my racial community:

Little Black Sambo was written and illustrated by Helen Bannerman in 1899. Though the character Sambo is South Indian, the derogatory use of the word Sambo towards African Americans, along with images deemed racially offensive made this book a target for anger and a cultural if not organized banning of the book.


My mother had a gorgeously illustrated copy of Sambo that was kept in a special place: Under the seat of our Piano. I loved flipping through that book! I thought Sambo's adventures were very exciting and was enthralled by the illustrations. One day I was sitting in the living room reading the book when one of my mother's friends looked down at what I was reading and was shocked. She turned to my mother and asked her " How can you let her read that?"

I froze and looked up at my Mother wondering if anything was wrong. My mother walked over to me and said "Don't worry, keep reading". As I turned back to my book I heard my mother's friends angry whispers and the words "racist" and "bad book". My mother wasn't convinced and quickly changed the subject.

So in our house there were no "bad books".  My mother also didn't limit herself to African American authors. A typical reading stack of my Mother's
 could range from Alex Haley's Roots, Shakespeare's Sonnets, and the Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe. One of the first public speeches
I gave in school was a rendition of her favorite poem by Poe: Anabelle Lee.

 Though my mother never understood my Father's passion for comic books ( which he passed down to me), she accepted it and bought me stacks of romance comics as Halloween gifts.
Though I may have been too young for certain genres, I wasn't taught to believe that books could influence me negatively. If I ever came across a concept I couldn't understand or questioned my Mother was always available for conversation and debate.

When I developed a fascination with Barbara Cartland romance novels Mom
 picked one up skimmed a few pages, nodded and gave it back to me [Barbara was heavy on the damsel in distress and brooding British Lords but no sexy times :)] As I got older I was able to share her love of Agatha Christie Mysteries and Stephen King.

I cherish the gift of reading my Mother gave to me, I cherish more her ability to let me decide for myself what I liked and didn't like.
I respect the opinions of others,like my mother respected the thoughts of her friend, but I think it's also important to create a space where children can expand their reading horizons.

So I'm a rebel! Raised by a woman who loved a variety of books and let me weave my own reading life.



3 comments:

Michelle @ The True Book Addict said...

Great post, Kai! You were lucky to have a mom like that. My parents were also like this. I probably read a lot of things other kids weren't allowed to, but my parents were always available to answer my questions. Yay for rebel readers!

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