Kamy Wicoff in this post on writing her first novel reflects on her time spent exploring the library at Hedgebrook (a writers’ retreat) and the memories it triggered of doing the same, going through her mother’s personal library. Then she asks: “Do you remember when you first chose one book from many, without recommendations or interference, to take to your bed or your desk or your couch? Was it taken from a personal library, the library of a family member or friend? Or was it from a library in your neighborhood or at school? Did you have a ritual for choosing what to read next? Do you remember when you thought: I will never get enough, and thank god there will always be more!”
My parents didn’t have a library. But there was the plastic bag of Mills and Boons I found in my mother’s room one summer; read all of them cover to cover, plus the used books and magazines left behind by tourists that my parents would bring home from the hotels where they worked, and the stack of Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories someone gifted us one Christmas, and the books we *cough* found after a hurricane on a neighbouring island. Plus, limited as our public library was, still is, there were the books found in its stacks from Trixie Belden Adventures to Judy Blume to oddly enough autobiographies of legends of the silver screen; and the books, usually romance novels, Sweet Dreams to Silhouette Desire to Sydney Sheldon, passed around at school. Maybe that’s why I kind of moved on from romances, around the same time I got over the Soaps (give or take around my university years) – they both had the same predictability and my reading palette was being refined, I suppose. I still have a fondness for those early books like Ludell and Willie, one of the first books I remember walking around with, I must have been in grade six at the time. I don’t know what became of it, if I left it behind somewhere or someone decided to relieve me of it. The Last of Eden is still a personal favourite; don’t remember where I got it though just that it was already used when I did. The only new books I remember that weren’t gifts were the books for literature in school – I devoured those too – and many of those were also used. Maybe that’s where my whole I read anything started (as opposed to people who only reading ‘quality’ books). I didn’t have that luxury. Growing up in Ottos, Antigua, I read whatever I could get my hands on; still do.