From as far back as I can remember, I’ve loved reading books. I spent much time during childhood at the local public library and looked forward to book checkout days at school. That did not change much when I got to high school. I went to a Jr-Sr High and for better or worse, I have memories in seventh grade of a classmate calling Super Fudge, “Super F***” – not everyone was as enthusiastic about reading as I. As high school progressed, I remember reading assigned texts (largely because there was no public Internet and no way to gain access to online summaries) but I also really enjoyed the assignments that allowed for creativity and written expression as a way to prove understanding and classroom readiness. I never minded standardized tests that scored reading skills and dutifully read all of the short stories in our English anthologies that were used in class.
In eighth grade English, I remember watching a clip of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell Tale Heart after reading the story in class. That has haunted me since in a way that etched elements of it into my brain more than a way that startled me. In ninth grade, I read Romeo & Juliet in English class and thus started my love of Shakespeare (which continued through college where I had the opportunity to study abroad and head to Stratford – it also has continued through my adult life as I’ve seen plays at The Globe and have watched Shakespeare on the Boston Common in summers and have taken advantage of traveling theatre productions in Sidney Harman Hall in DC. In tenth grade, we read Hamlet, Tale of Two Cities, and Moby Dick; nothing more than titles were particularly memorable but those are some of the readings I recall.
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Eleventh grade readings started in the summer after sophomore year – we were handed a bag of books: Catcher & the Rye was one that stands out to me. I remember not particularly enjoying the reads that year but with an AP course load, they were mandatory. Paradise Lost is the material I remember most from senior year but at this point cannot recall much in terms of detail. Many of the texts that I read in school were manageable but were not keen interests of mine. I rarely saw myself in readings and never really understood the importance of connecting to a text because connections of any kind were never really emphasized.
In order to connect with texts, I relied heavily on my interest reads. Three books that I recall diving into were Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks, Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, and She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb; I also would pick up a Stephen King book here and there. It turns out, my interest in reading heavy books started in high school and rings true today. And while I rarely, if ever, will recommend a film of any kind because I largely find watching movies a form of slow torture, I used to really like the Sunday Night Movies that were broadcast on NBC and later syndicated on Lifetime like the rendition of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery (a classic that is still a favorite of mine today).