During dinner a friend of a friend foolishly told me he didn’t read. My confusion at the notion turned to heartbreak, then I tried to reserve my judgment. He couldn’t have possibly known he was having dinner with a girl who goes to bookstores for fun. Seeing the disappointment on my face, he quickly added that he has read one book he loved, Fortunate Son by Walter Mosley.
“That’s a real black man’s story,” he said.
“And a great read,” I replied.
I then inundated him with books and authors similar to Mosley and assured him that he didn’t have to relive his high school English syllabus to enjoy reading. My sister gently saved him from my soap box. “Don’t worry,” she said. “She’s a writer.”
In the essay “Dear Ms. Larsen, There’s a Mirror Looking Back,” Heidi W. Durrow writes that Nella Larsen’s writing gave her “the permission…to write the only stories [she] knew how to tell: of being black and Danish, and of being a white women’s child.” The need to establish your own personhood is imperative, but we all need permission to do so. If others are unwilling to grant it, I think literature can.
While rereading Quicksand, I was struck by the way space and experience change the perception of a book and why it’s so important to revisit the novels, poems, essays and articles which have, at one time, moved us.