Americanah

Since I’ve been in school, my ability to accomplish any personal reading has completely tanked. Looking back on my studies this summer, I’m inclined to say, in the manner of women who pop out children and later claim it wasn’t the worst thing they’ve ever been through, “Oh, it wasn’t that bad.” That is bullshit: it was intense. It was tough and tiring and also terrific. But as my August break approached, Debra subtly suggested that it might be a good idea to limit extracurricular reading and actually take a break.

“If I catch you with anything bound in your hands, we’re done,” she said.

But I ran into a couple of friends after work one day who were on their way to the park to read. They were reading Americanah for their Feminist Book Club (a rad idea for a book club, I think, even though my position on book clubs is well established). Hmmm, I thought, because my boss gave me that book for my birthday two years ago when it came out … and it has been collecting dust on my shelf ever since because hard covers, ugh. “You should read it,” they said, “it’s great!” I followed up with them later, when they were finished, and they stuck to their story so I decided to tackle it on my school break.

I’m not going to review this book. Mike Peed already did a great job of that in the New York Times, if you’re interested, and this is the review that interested both my boss and me in the book. What I will say is, this is largely a book about race, which it deals with in an interesting, engaging way but white people, you might be uncomfortable at times. If so, take a deep breath, and try to take it in. You have some stuff to learn.

Tackle, I wish there were a better word to describe what went down while I was reading this book, but that’s the right one. I was tackling the book, and the book was tackling me. The book was winning, kicking my ass. I was not a particularly fast reader to begin with, but now I’m out of practice, slow and plodding. I was pissed off, a lot of the time, about how long it was taking me to get through this book. Not all of this was about the reading itself though, I’m also just not in the habit of picking up a book in my free time anymore.

Around the mid-point, I suddenly picked up the pace. The pressure to finish it before my class – think Lit 101 – started probably. Well, I did it. And the next day, I read Dept. of Speculation. Reading is a little like riding a bike, it comes back. Thankfully, because I had been wondering if I could get through the books in my class quickly enough.

What’s the point here? I guess just that it’s weird that my relationship to something that’s always been fundamental to my character, to the point where a jackass recently used it to mock me to a mutual friend – She hasn’t seen it, she reads books, the jackass said to the other one when he asked me if I had seen some show – has changed so radically. I guess it all changes, eventually.

What do you think?

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