For years, I had been lost and lied to in the form of literacy deprivation. Unknowingly cheating myself of true reading satisfaction, I stayed—for an endless amount of years—stranded in the teen fiction section of the bookstore. Among the books on vampires and fairies, I attempted to find solace or some sense of fulfillment between such pages, but to no avail. Despite desperately combing through the teen section—where I could find unlimited texts devoted to teenage relationships, glamorized eating disorders, and a seemingly never ending fantasy section—I was unhappy. For years, books provided me comfort and amusement; they were my companions and informers on topics I knew next to nothing about. And yet. My trips to bookstores soon left me with a guilty sensation, as I attempted to read books devoted to topics like high school popularity, all without anyone noticing. The words left me with an empty feeling inside. My soul was becoming rotten and withered from these hollow words that disappeared right after reading.
This never-ending cycle of dissatisfaction lasted until one fateful day, when I made the most exciting of discoveries. Enjoying the air conditioning of a bookstore on a summer day, I decided instead of faithfully tromping off to the teen books, I would instead look at the other available selections. It was somewhere between the history and politics section of the store where I felt my inner flame ignite once more. I furiously read all the titles, my fingers gliding over the deliciously plump book spines, attempting to absorb their contents with just a slight touch of the hand. I murmured praises to these books, softly whispering my approval at their promise. I could practically feel myself growing wings, suddenly buyout and flapping against the bookstore ceiling. I piled book upon book, testing my physical limits, as my gluttony—for years unfulfilled and dismayed—finally reared its ugly head. Oh, how I wanted to love and cherish each one of these fantastic books—to bring them home, read them over and over again, keep them by my bed, and treat them the way they deserved. After years of not finding any books worth buying, I was now overwhelmed and almost delirious with the numerous possibilities. This, I thought, is how it feels to be alive!
This marked a crucial turning point in my 19-year-old life journey. No longer satisfied with cliché teen novels, I had entered a new stage of my life where I lusted for books on heavy-duty material. Books on government, history, feminism, race. I wasted too much of my life reading trashy novels, I reasoned. I no longer have time for such child play. I have so much to learn. Let my education commence!
This moment reflected a transition not only in subject material but also on a personal level. I was undergoing a type of inner blossoming: I had become, unbeknownst to me, a curious intellectual, on the cusp of adulthood. Most importantly, I thoroughly enjoyed reading such books. I loved finding out a more accurate portrayal of a specific event and comparing it to the watered down, happy-ending version falsely taught in my schooling as a youth. I loved being able to make connections between the past and present: because of something that happened back then, this is why it is now. And reading these juicy texts taught me about how to change the world. Despite hopelessness or bleak tragedy, history cemented the fact that when enough people tirelessly resist a prevalent obstacle, the world takes notice. Sources of power, I learned, eventually alter and adjust in the face of injustice. Change, given an unlimited amount of time and the persistent demands from the public, would eventually occur and for the better. When people are able to unite despite differences because the need for change is so great, the turning point is eventually achieved. As someone who often feels overwhelmed by the countless injustices and horrors that engulf this world, this message was the exact reminder to stay hopeful, as well as continually to resist the engulfing waves of sexism and racism on my own individual scale.
While comfortably reading in an armchair, books placed by my feet, I realized that the gift of reading is indeed an incredible one. To be able to learn more about a topic or simply find a refuge within the pages of a book is something everyone should have the joy of experiencing. With about one billion non-literate adults in this world, reading is not something that should be taken for granted. It is a skill that must be taught and tended to; a skill that holds numerous opportunities beyond the page. There is nothing more dangerous than an intelligent person, and books provide the perfect way to arm oneself with the deadliest equipment available: knowledge.