My Reading Journey and Realization
In middle school, I was completely compelled by the Nancy Drew series. The mystery pulled me in. I hoped the series would never end as I flipped through the pages and picked up the next book. Maybe, as a young reader I flipped through Nancy Drew a bit too fast. I was definitely an anxious reader. I counted the pages I had read and displayed my collections of Nancy Drew and A Series of Unfortunate Events with pride. Looking back, it is safe for me to say, I may have been anxious for the wrong reasons. Carolyn Keen is a master of writing mystery, and I must mention Lemony Snicket as well, but I was not ready to comprehend why mystery was essential in literature.
I continued reading for pleasure in high school. I was persuaded by my group of friends to read the Twilight series. I fantasized that the werewolf character, Jacob Black lived in a house near my high school. The house was unusual compared to the average Arizona landscape. I had grown accustomed to the identical homes that were built into communities filled with the required desert landscape. It was something about the small house hidden behind fully-grown trees, a rebel for standing alone on a main road, and I was intrigued. This mysterious house triggered my imagination. I realized mystery did not only exist in literature, but also in reality. As a result, I started to become an investigator of my reality and my identity. My senior year of high school I picked up I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Roots: The Saga of an American Family. Maya Angelou and Alex Haley helped me identify the connection between real life and literature. Furthermore, I was inspired to write and, as a young writer, I attempted to create this connection myself. Once I realized mystery existed in reality and literature, I was hooked for life.
As an undergraduate I studied English Literature and concentrated in Writing. I fell in love with the mysterious world of fiction. After experienced my first creative writing workshop, I knew I was a writer. Flannery O’Connor stole my heart in her short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” For me, the mystery in literature unfolded as the Misfit held the, unsympathetic and rude, grandmother at gunpoint and the grandmother said, “You are one of my children.” This moment showed me characters are capable of an awakening, realizing internal flaws as an individual, and understanding the faults built into humanity. It’s transcending, really. A universal meaning can be detected by the reader and there rests the many layers of human connection via communication: the conversation between the reader and the characters, the conversation between the reader and the author, and, after the story ends, the conversation the reader has with the world. Yes, Flannery O’Connor showed me all of this and because of her I decided to receive my MFA in creative writing. More importantly, she inspired me to teach young adult readers and involve them in this conversation. I am a strong advocate for critical thinking because it is a skill that students will forever use in the learning process. As students learn to make connections within a story and connections between the story and their life, they hone the critical thinking skill. Honestly, I believe young readers have the potential to understand literature as both challenging and beautiful.
In regards to teaching literature from the perspective of a writer, I have learned reading like a writer is one of the most efficient and rewarding ways to read. Writers are known to dissect all narratives as a craft with the attempt to understand every twist and turn in the plot, every underlying theme, the deep desires of each character, the reasoning behind each word the author has chosen, and the list could continue for eternity. My passion for literature, as a craft, will inspire young readers. It is my hope to become not only an ELA teacher, but also a source of motivation and inspiration throughout a young reader’s journey.