I've always been quite a "rebel" when it came to my reading. I have read what I've wanted (even if it was "inappropriate") since I can remember liking to read. My parents didn't dictate what I could read and I felt that school shouldn't have to either. I would do as much as I could to do well in the class - which often meant not reading the assigned book.
I know, I know.
So, I rebelled against titles like The Great Gatsby, and Frankenstein without knowing what they were about. I have yet to fully read The Great Gatsby *gasp*, but Frankenstein actually came back to haunt me when my freshman level English literature class assigned it. I wanted to start off well, so I read it - and I LOVED IT. I still love it. I look back and kind of wish I could apologize to my high school senior level English teacher - even though I did get an A in the class...
Then there were other books assigned during high school: The House on Mango Street, Rebecca, and Of Mice and Men. For some reason, these books I read cover to cover. Maybe because The House on Mango Street, and Of Mice and Men are super short stories? That would be appealing to high school me. Rebecca, however, was not a short read. It did, however, intrigue me. It seemed scary - thrilling. But, why Rebecca, and not Frankenstein? Was it because Rebecca had a female at the center of the story? That is a connection I am just now realizing. I love a "good" female protagonist. It didn't hurt that we also got to watch the movie in class.
Then there are the books I was told to read in college. Friday Night Lights is probably the one I most disliked having to read. Football in Texas. I know I know there's some importance to it, but Freshman me did not care...and I doubt I'd care as much as that now. But I read it for my HISTORY class, and I wrote about it, and I passed.
Then...then the wonderful happened. My last semester I had one class that I had to take to graduate, but I was on financial aid so I had to fill up my schedule with 3 more classes. I took an extra psychology (my major) course, decided to treat myself (because it is a treat) with two literature courses, Intro to American Fiction and Native American Literature. I had them both with the same professor, Dr. Deane Mansfield-Kelly and they were glorious.
I remember reading (yes, actually reading) Monkeewrench by P.J. Tracy (a mother daughter writing duo), and The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (we watched the movie too!) the most, I enjoyed both books, especially Monkeewrench. In fact, I still read books by P.J. Tracy because of this class. Dr. Kelly was so enthusiastic about, not just reading, but the genre she was teaching. She specialized in detective fiction and I thought that was the coolest thing ever. She had a framed cover of Hound of the Baskervilles in her office. The lady rocked.
I have always been interested in the Native American culture, so naturally the decision to take her other course was a no brainer. I got to read books like Love Medicine, Ceremony, Blue Dawn Red Earth, and so many others. But the books that stood the test of time with me were Louise Erdrich's The Beet Queen and Sherman Alexie's Reservation Blues. Both gorgeous in their own tragic ways. Alexie's works in particular have come to hold a special place in my soul. I recommend everyone read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian because it is one of the few books that can have me laughing one second and sobbing the next. His words are easy to read, but so difficult to digest. Beautifully tragic. One of my deepest wants is to one day meet Mr. Alexie, but I'm afraid to as well because how does one speak words to someone so eloquent?
But I digress.
Every book, whether I read it or not has affected me in one way or another. Positively and negatively. The important part is that if it weren't for assigned reading, I wouldn't know what I love and what I dislike. I never would have found Sherman Alexie if it weren't for wonderful Dr. Kelly assigning it to the class.
It's never too late to meet a good book.