I am the proud…not possessor, certainly, but the proud room-mate, parent, audience, chauffeur, restauranteur, and wailing wall for two daughters. They are the light of my life, and my favorite forms of entertainment, even better than the dog (who is entertainment personified).
Maybe eight years ago, Sarcasm Girl (now, I suppose, Sarcasm Woman, as she is over 21) went from merely reading books to wanting to talk about them Really talk about them in long, involved conversations drawing on everything else she’d ever read, seen on TV, thought about, heard in a song-lyric… Since I was just such a teenager, I was delighted to indulge her. We have had great, enthusiastic, arm-waving discussions about Twilight and Jane Eyre and Ender’s Game. There’s been a little friction when she discovers that I’d read something a couple of decades before her and she couldn’t just spring its brilliance on me, but we work through that. And all the time I’m just grinning at my enthusiastic daughter getting all analytic and excited about fiction.
And now her sister is at it. And again, I’m delighted. And a little exhausted.
Sarcasm Woman’s sister, Avocado, is 16. She’s not just 16, she is enthusiastically, bombastically 16. She’s discovered politics. She’s discovered languages. She’s discovered reading (again…this has happened more than once). And while her enthusiasms and the things she lassos in to discuss when she’s talking about a book are different from her sister’s the underlying energy is the same.
OMIGOD MOM, YOU HAVE TO READ THIS.
So I do.
I have read several books by Kevin Brooks this way (YA author, quite good), a book called The Maze Runner, which did not impress me (OMIGOD, why not?), and we re-read the Hunger Games books before the movie came out. Last week she had me read a Joyce Carol Oates story she’d read for English class that blew her away. Because I had to read it so we could talk about it. Where her sister’s focus is on the story and the literature that might be referenced in these works, Avocado is getting into sociology and history, and seeing that. Oddly, she loves YA science fiction and fantasy, but won’t look at any of the SF I leave in her way.
One of the rules of OMIGOD, MOM, YOU HAVE TO READ THIS is that it’s not reciprocal. I can’t say OMIGOD, KID, YOU HAVE TO READ THIS. It somehow takes the bloom off the literary rose, knowing that she’s reading something I recommended. So I have to wait until she’s found a work I like and pretend I don’t care until she’s done reading, at which point (OMIGOD, MOM, YOU HAVE TO…) I can say “I know, right? What did you like about it?”
And we’re off.
When I was a kid my mother had a book she’d cherished as a child. It was about a little girl named Babs who wanted a chum, and my mother all but hit me over the head with this book, insisting that I read it and love it as much as she had. And I tried, because I was a dutiful child, but it was kind of dreary and twee. What I took from this was that I could not push books on my kids. The worst I did was occasionally suggest something for read-aloud time. The rule was “one chapter, then decide.” That’s how we got through the All-of-a-Kind Family books and the Ballet Shoes books, and the Edward Eager books, and… I’d get to the end of that one chapter and say, “wanna read something else tomorrow?” and I’d be told in no uncertain terms that I was not stopping there. “Nother chapter, Mama.”
Which I suppose was the toddler version of OMIGOD MOM, YOU HAVE TO… I’m a sucker for a kid with a book.
Madeleine Robins is the author of The Stone War, Point of Honour, Petty Treason, and The Sleeping Partner (the third Sarah Tolerance mystery, just out from Plus One Press). She is also the author of a double-handful of short fiction, most available on her bookshelf. Her first Regency romances, Althea, My Dear Jenny, and The Heiress Companion, and Lady John are now available from Book View Café. She has just completed The Salernitan Women, an historical novel set in medieval Italy, and scheduled for release in winter 2013.