Last week, like many of you, I visited my family for Thanksgiving. While playing our go-to game Qwirkle cubes,* Mrs. Kim (aka my mom) asked me, “Have you heard of a book called The Book Thief?” I almost fell out of my chair in disbelief, and my mom didn’t know what was so odd about her question. I exclaimed, “Have I heard of it?!? It’s my favorite book in the whole world!!!” She said the Korean translation was split into two volumes, and that she enjoyed volume 1 immensely, but was interested in reading it in original English, because she could imagine the writing would be beautiful.
Instead of a review of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, for which I would need considerable time to do the book justice, this post is about how my mom was instrumental in me becoming the book nerd that I am. But quickly, anyone who is 7th grade and above who is looking for a CYL (“change your life”) kind of book should read this one if you haven’t yet! The audiobook is amazing as well.
Back to my homage to my first reading role model…I have many fond memories of going to the Cerritos and then later the San Leandro library with her. She taught me how to use a library by taking me along with her to peruse shelves, use a card catalog (remember those?!), sit in comfy library chairs, and use a book drop. Going to the library with her wasn’t drudgery but a treat I looked forward to. When I was old enough, she would let me roam the kids’ section on my own and she would go find her books, and we would leave happily with our next two weeks’ worth of reading! (With the distance of years, all of my memories are positive, but there were plenty of times I got in major trouble for overdue fines, too!)
Looking back now, I realize the memorable reading experiences with my mom continued even as I got older. Some of the memorable conversations we had about life, about human nature, about people, happened around talking about literature I was reading at school. I remember being amazed at how many of the “classics” my mom had read, first in Korean, and then in English. When I was in 11th grade, we talked about The Grapes of Wrath, and she helped me to grasp the deeper meaning of the ending that confused me in my teenaged immaturity. We discovered The Joy Luck Club together (yep, we bought it at Costco!), taking turns reading about Chinese-immigrant moms and their Chinese-American daughters and crying buckets of tears in empathy. I also remember how she decided to read the unabridged Les Miserables, but at about 800 pages in, she wasn’t enjoying it so much anymore, but she felt like quitting was wimpy and really not an option, so she pushed through to the end. That’s the vintage indomitable Korean-mom spirit!
When I think about it, I don’t know if my mom was conscious of the impact she was having on me as a reader. She didn’t do anything special or intentional — she just let me in to her reading life. We continue to share titles with each other, and so I’m super excited that my mom is going to soon be reading one of my favorite books in the world. I look forward to talking with her about it.
Who are some of your reading role models?
*I’m not being paid to endorse this game, but it really is the best!