Many of my dearest didn’t have the best childhoods. I seem to collect people who have spotty or downright abusive families. I also seem to collect people who read. Voraciously. It’s a writer’s occupational hazard I suppose.
We all have the same tale. We might not have had the best or most consistent moral compasses to follow, but we all had stories. All of us can point to many books and worlds that shepherded us from damaged or lost children into a whole adulthood (wholeish, anyway). We have memories of the teacher that picked us out of class and handed us a book on the sly, or told us to check in the scifi section of the library, or simply encouraged us to think critically about what we were fed, rather than accepting it without question. Where there was a dearth in our home lives, fiction and storytelling and passion for the written word stepped in to surrogate.
I’m not trying to bag on my own parents, or really any parents. Being a parent is a hard fucking job, and even the best of intentions can go awry when faced with the realities of the daily struggle to nurture and grow tiny people. If anything, my parents encouraged me to read and often provided me with trips to the library and books as gifts. That alone is a blessing.
I can tell you that I had parents of the normal sort, and I had spiritual parents too. Gene Roddenberry, Stephen King, Wendy and Richard Pini, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Douglas Adams, Dr. Seuss… All these and more had a hand in my upbringing. Stories to this day govern the way I believe the world should look, how I conduct myself, how I treat others.
With the disappearance of Borders and the defunding of arts and libraries everywhere, I’m afraid for the lost children of the generations to come. I can only hope that they will find stories of their own to fill in their missing pieces. I’m a child of the digital age, and I don’t begrudge the shift toward ethings (I love my Kindle. Srsly.) I just hope that we remember to provide access to those who might not be able to afford high speed internet and an ereader. Because the lost children need stories–they need someone to help them find their way.
Today’s version of Can’t Talk, Reading is brought to you by The Book of Lost Things, by John Connolly. About a 12 year old boy on the cusp of adulthood, his tragedies, and the fairy tales that form his moral compass and guide him through. (I told you this keeps coming up for me! Total coincidence, I had this post half written when I bought the book. I think the universe is trying to tell me something.) Great read, just picks you up and carries you along until the end. I recommend it if you are waxing nostalgic about your own storied upbringing.