Hungry for Books
I’ve been having a running conversation with my 10-year-old about why I won’t let her read The Hunger Games. I told her I don’t want her to read it because it’s dark. It’s about teens killing other teens – and I just don’t think a 10-year-old child needs to read about that. I told her if she wants to read about hunger, go read Oliver Twist.
Unfortunately, she seems to have inherited a lurid strand of DNA from my mother’s side of the family (that I also inherited) that I call “the tabloid gene.” It gives you an insatiable appetite for salacious gossip, murder-and-abduction stories, and lurid story-lines. My mom somehow watched The Young and the Restless for twenty years straight, read practically every Harlequin Romance known to womankind, and unapologetically consumed stacks of tabloid trash including the The National Enquirer – even though she had a PhD.
I harbor her same deep and abiding love for tabloids and reality TV shows – the crappier the better: Teen Mom, Hoarders, Intervention, The First 48, Real Housewives – anything that details the true, horrific, depressing problems of others (ostensibly so I can feel better about myself). This includes Super Nanny, which made me feel so much better about my own parenting. I don’t buy tabloids, but I do find myself scanning their shocker headlines at the checkout stand – I’m not proud of it, either. But like I said, it’s in my DNA.
And as a parent, I’m afraid of this side of me.
My voyeuristic bottom-feeder taste in TV shows was one of the main reasons we killed our television. I knew that my late-night addiction to Nancy Grace and murder and abduction stories was making me a vapid paranoiac, and was fueling my fear of underground parking garages. I didn’t want to pass on even more of the tabloid gene (or my fear of parking garages) to my children, and I knew if I kept doing it, I would.
That said, I’m not one of those people who is like a reformed smoker going on about how bad smoking is for you and judging other moms who let their kids watch TV. On the contrary – I wish I could do it in moderation but I can’t – I’m a habitual creature, which means that I was piping Nancy Grace’s stories of murder and abduction into my bedroom every night, even though I could actually feel my brain cells dying.
One of the positive things that came out of killing our television was that I found myself reaching for books more often. I’ve always been a voracious reader – but without the TV I read way more than I was, and I’ve replaced my voyeuristic need for lurid plot lines with books depicting the immigrant experience and the experiences of people who live in cultures I can’t even fathom – Rwanda, Haiti, the Sudan, Nazi Germany, South Africa during apartheid, Alabama in the 1950s – so this particular list is filled with stories like that. I highly recommend each one of them.
I’m reading a memoir called Escape from Camp 14, about one man’s escape from one of the worst prison camps in North Korea. I had told Fiona that she can’t read The Hunger Games - but the other day I found her curled up on the couch with her nose in Escape from Camp 14! And she had gotten to page 39! She said she could not put it down! She said if I didn’t let her finish it that I would be no better than the Nazi book burners!
I won’t let her read about
hungry teenagers eating other hungry teenagers The Hunger Games which I should actually take the time to read first before saying no but I am considering letting her read about hungry North Koreans cannibalizing orphans for food during the famine. WTF? Motherhood is full of tricky inconsistencies like that.
Parenting fail? I don’t know yet. She says she’s hooked and is dying to read the whole book – so I told her I would decide if she can read it after I read it.
Books I Could Not Put Down
In no particular order, here’s a list of
10 15 books I’ve read that I could not put down (and it was really hard for me to cut it down to 15):
1. The Orphan Master’s Son by David Ignatius.
2. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi.
3. Nanjing Requium, by Ha Jin.
4. Little Bee, by Chris Cleave.
5. Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Vergase.
6. What Is the What, by Dave Eggers (this is one of my all-time favorite books)
7. The Known World, by Edward P. Jones.
9. Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa, by Mark Mathabane.
10. Everything Is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer.
12. The Butcher Boy, by Patrick McCabe.
13. A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Housseini.
14. The White Tiger, by Arvind Adiga.
15. The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom, by Slavomir Rawicz.
Linking up with Northwest Mommy.
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