Kevin Morris at Newauthoronline issued a challenge to write a post about our favorite book. He is a great writer with a fascinating story so I encourage you to check him out.
So many books have passed through my hands and formed the foundation of who I am today, that it is immensely difficult to pin down just one that reigns supremely above all others.
The first book, though, that I remember affecting me deeply was The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper.
I am somewhat embarrassed of the story of how I came to even read it but I think it is important to start even before that for some perspective.
We made frequent trips to the library as kids. My mother would park at a local shopping center and we would take the train into the downtown library branch, thus avoiding parking meter fees. My mother would screen all of the books we picked out before we took them home. Judy Blume was off limits, among so many others.
In ninth grade, my first year in public schools (a place that I had been led to believe was a veritable den of sin and iniquity), To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was on the class reading list.
As we were about to begin the book the teacher made a big deal about the fact that there was some profanity in the pages. There was a permission slip to go home that parents had to sign.
Of course there was.
If you do not read this book, an alternative assignment will be given.
“What do you think you should do?” my mother asked. Her question seemed to indicate that she would sign the slip if I desired since she was asking me but without saying so much in words. She had never before given me the control. Did she mean it? It felt like a trick question, a test.
I wanted to read the book as I was not relishing the getting singled out backlash bit, but I believed she wanted me to say no, to refuse to participate in something “evil.” God surely did not want me to do this, either. Reading it would be sinful, wouldn’t it? If I said yes, what would really happen? In the end I was too afraid to find out.
I requested the alternative assignment.
As I was reading through the intro of The Last of the Mohicans, I was unimpressed. The first chapter was meh. So was the second chapter. This was going to be torture.
I was running through the trees, dodging bullets and knives as the characters came alive. I could smell the fires and the blood and the gunpowder.
It is really a tiny subplot in the book, the fact that Uncus, an Indian, falls in love with Cora, a mixed race daughter of a general, and they both die tragically in the end…but it hit me hard in the chest as I read those last few pages.
(You should know that the movie is a beautiful yet utterly unfaithful watered down adulteration.)
It was then that I realized that the desire for love transcended everything. Race. Time. Space. Even physical disabilities like my father’s polio. He wanted love, too. He was human. A mean, bitter human but a human nonetheless, a human with dreams and desires that he was probably not “allowed” to live. I found compassion in that book.
And then I started to make sense to my own self. I just wanted to be loved. Protected. Cherished. Died for. This was the root of so much of my angst. It was then that I fell in love with Uncus. Well, not so much with him as the idea of him.
And in case you were wondering, I did manage to read To Kill a Mockingbird.