This post is the second entry in a series of posts “A Nerd Girl’s Adventure with…” of really neat things I happen to stumble across and just have to share with the world. The first entry in this series was written about an ordinary lipstick, an ordinary lipstick that a fantastic fictional character named Peggy Carter wore. Enjoy this post and stay tuned for yet another in the very near future!
One of my earliest memories is of my mother sitting in her rocking chair, holding me close and reading to me until I fell asleep. My mom was, in fact still is, a bookworm and it rubbed off on me very early in life. We’d go to the public library once a week if time permitted with my brother in tow. When the Scholastic Book Fair came to school my mom ALWAYS had a few dollars for me to spend and when I got a little older the two of us would go visit Goodwill stores because we could always find paperback books on the cheap. Reading remains one of my favorite activities because of the sheer delight I get from having the ability to find new worlds to get lost in.
When it dawned on me that I could go anywhere within just a couple of books, I was SOLD. Yes, yes. Cue the Reading Rainbow Theme Song, folks. It was a done deal for me. From that point on, my head was always in a book and it was a difficult task to get me out of one.
Books have always been apart of great and
terrible hilarious memories of my youth: from all the many times my mom threatened me to stop reading at the dinner table to gaining a understanding as a small child about grief and the death of loved ones from reading Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs (I still own my childhood copy!). From the ass whooping I narrowly missed from sneaking Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry into church and slipping it into my bible to read to my mom forcibly taking Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone away from me the night she bought it because it was past my bedtime but I was already 3/4 done with the book, having not put it down since we picked it up earlier that day after school. And do NOT get me started on how I think my mom should have bought stock in either Tokyo Pop or Viz Manga years ago for all the manga I accumulated in my middle school and high school years. SOOOOOO MUCH MANGA. I could have had my own Manga Cafe, but that’s another story for another time…
Books have been a vital part of my upbringing, my identity and how I view and navigate the world today.
A few weeks ago I nearly walked past a tiny little house. Yes, you read that right. A tiny little house filled with books. Instantly forgetting whatever errand I was running, I looked around… When on earth did this get here?!
And friends, this is how I stumbled upon the awesomeness that is the Little Free Library project: originally started by as a tribute to a mother who was a school teacher, whose simple design which was seen by a craftsman who brought his ideas and expertise to the original creator and it all became something much, much greater than perhaps anyone could have even imagined.
— CarrieClipsMcClain (@DivineBlkPearl) June 10, 2015
I love reading as I do books and libraries. But my relationship with reading hasn’t always be seen in a good light. All my life I’ve had to fight, to swim against the tide that has been negative stereotypes of Black folk. Painfully hurtful assumptions of people who look like me. “Acting white” was something I was accused of in middle school when I was re-reading the first Harry Potter book in class one day. I stopped with my mouth wide open, trying to think what Hermione Granger would say or do in that situation as we had many similarities: we both were studious girls with big hair who had a snarky sense of humor (I actually read her as a girl of color my first read through, which is why I stan so hard for racebent HP fancasting and fan art). In the end, I couldn’t think of anything to say to combat such a statement, such an absurd accusation. I could only return to my book and be troubled that I couldn’t channel Ms. Granger, that I couldn’t stomp out the ugly head of ignorance that showed itself and would continue to do so throughout my life. Since I am talking about libraries and safe places I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Kevin Allen, the 36-year-old Black man whose life ended in the public library he frequented often by police officers a month ago in New Jersey. Described as a quiet man who visited the library often and kept to himself, reports tell us one day in the early afternoon he aggressively charged police officers after being questioned and they put him down after non-lethal measures were not effective.
And how does it make me feel to hear yet another life of a black person snuffed out by police officers, armed vigilantes or “mentally ill” white men who sit in attendance of a bible study at a historical black church before killing most of the people sitting around him?
How am I to feel in the rising tide of lack of safe places for people who look like me?
Swimming pools and parks? College campuses and parking lots. Libraries? Not libraries. Not my precious libraries that I frequent if not once a week, once every two weeks. Perhaps, the Little Free Library I stumbled upon was exactly the distraction I needed. A place to find a book to stick my nose in and for a brief moment forget that articles about Kevin Allen’s brush with the law aren’t too difficult to find online and in ninety-five percent of them there are comments saying “good riddance to that trash” or something to that effect. In the end, I ponder what safe places are left. Where can I go where I can be free from the type of violence that perpetually follows Black folk and leaves bodies and rage and deep-seated grief? What safe places are left where I can be exempt from the type of mindset of people who feel the need to challenge people who wear BLACK LIVES MATTER t-shirts or have icons with the very same words as their avatars online? Perhaps it’s time for us to redefine “safe places” because we sure are running out of them, aren’t we? Until I have answers for those questions, coming across a Little Free Library is perfect for letting me forget the reality that Black lives in public spaces doesn’t always mean that they’ll have the privilege to go home, in fact, they’d be lucky to come home not in a body bag.
You guys, I went back to that little free library and left comics and superhero stickers. Some kid is going to see Kamala Khan and Miles Morales and just lose their minds. Also Wonder Woman stickers are there too alongside my little pony comics and a bunch of free comic book day kid comics. Woot! Woot! #littlefreelibrary #ComicsForAllYouBlackAndBrownBabies ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ A photo posted by carebearsonfire (@carebearsonfire) on
On a lighter note, I did return to that Little Free Library and stocked it up with comics, leaving it with lots of kid-friendly comics and even some familiar brown and black faces — Miles Morales and Kamala Khan. Give me a book so I can have some kind of comfort on why I know more about Allen’s criminal history and nothing on any witness testimony (supposedly there was a child present at time of the shooting?). I guess it’s easier to make jokes in the comment section of an article about a dead Black man than it is to face a reality where Black lives aren’t as valued and are certainly targeted in a way most of the commentators couldn’t even dream of relating to.
I plan to stop by every two week and drop off a few comics and a book or two that I’m done with from my bookshelf in hopes that someone else will enjoy my offerings as much as I did those first few books I grabbed from the Little Free Library. So cheers to this magnificent project that is reshaping social interaction in our neighborhoods and promoting literacy at the same time. Cheers to everyone taking a book and leaving a book. Cheers to everyone buying or making a little house to take in books and sending out word everyone should have access to a good book: man, woman and child.
So have you come across a Little Free Library lately? Want to see where the nearest one to you is? Learn more about them and how you can be a part of the world wide project of “taking a book and leaving a book”. Follow me on Goodreads and share what you’re reading too!