During my junior high years I biked to the branch library on Bristol Road once a week. Dodging potholes in the road, I balanced the bike basket full of books and a sack of books hanging from each handle bar. Finally, back in my room and sprawled across my bed, I’d open To Kill a Mockingbird and find Atticus Finch saying, “You just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anybody says to you, don’t you let ‘em get your goat. Try fighting with your head for a change.”
Or I’d burrow into The Diary of a Young Girl and think about what Anne Frank said: “It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because despite everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
I laughed through Cheaper by the Dozen because Mr. Gilbreth and my dad were the same person. The only real difference was that my dad went to church.
When I read the formulaic books—Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden, and Cherry Ames, I found comfort in their organization, their predictability, and their happy endings.
Mennonite books from the church library, books like Mattie Mae and The Miller Five and Betsy Buttonwood and The Crying Heart helped me remember that other plain people like me were alive somewhere. They helped me go back to Yoder School for an hour.
All these books took me away, which is where I wanted to be. I read during class with my book hidden on my lap. I read during study hall and lunch. I read at home while I dried dishes with the book propped up on the window sill above the kitchen sink. I read while I rocked my little brother to sleep. I read as I walked home from school. When I’m a teacher, I thought, I just might let my class read for a whole day.