Wednesday, December 8, 2010

To All the Books That Shaped (And Showed) Me...

This week’s Teaching Author blog topic, sparked by Scholastic’s “You Are What You Read” website, seemed easy enough: list the 5 books that show the world who I am.
Creating that list, though, called for hard choices.

I toured my apartment’s book-inviting flat surfaces – i.e. bookshelves, tables, stools and window sills, lovingly fingering spines and book covers.
I paged through years’ worth of Reader’s Journals.
I culled my memory recalling titles and authors.
Not until my eyes fell upon my Art Deco-book-ended collection of childhood favorites did I see what I’d been looking for.

Hans Christian Andersen’s The UglyDuckling.
(Oh, how I loved Happy Endings!)
My Orange True Book, Betsy Ross, Girl of Old Philadelphia.
(Oh, how I yearned to know how others found theirs.)

Carolyn Keene’s The Secret of the Old Clock.
(There’s nothing more satisfying than solving a mystery!)

When I first began reading, long ago, I sought to learn how to realize my Happy Ending.

Today, I read (minus the blue roadster) seeking the same.

Contemporary fiction.
Historical fiction.
Folk tales.
                                    How-to books.
                                    I'm not picky.

I realize: perhaps my five-title list of the books that shaped me - including the three childhood favorites pictured above, does show the world who I am.

What’s truly important, though, at least to me: the books I read, the books I read now, showed and show me who I am and might become.  Each helped me figure out how I could write my Happy Ending.
The book I’m enthusiastically recommending to all I meet is Heather Seller’s memoir, You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know (Riverhead, October, 2010).
The author’s story, exquisitely written, is memorable, original, literally and figuratively eye-opening.

In Heather Sellers' own words:
"This the story of how I uncovered my past, which had long been obscured by my family’s extreme circumstamces and by face blindness, a neurological disorder that prevents me from recognizing people by face. Along the way, I discovered a deeper truth: that even in the most flawed circumstances, love may be seen and felt."

Like the children’s books that made me a reader, that made me a writer, Seller’s memoir offers Hope ...and the possibility of Happy Endings.

Esther Hershenhorn

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