"....few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into [her] heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memories to which, sooner or later - no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover or how much we learn or forget - we will return." -Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I might as well start with Easy

I have been keeping an old-fashioned card catalogue of the books I read since I was in high school, which was some twenty odd years ago. I keep it because a) I love keeping records; and b) I often can't remember the books I've read, so when I'm trying to think of a specific book, I consult my card catalogue and viola, I have my answer. I love it when my obsessive tendencies serve an actual purpose.

I don't need to conduct a count to know that Walter Mosley wins the award of most-read author in my catalogue. This says less about the number of books I've read than about Mr. Mosley's prolificness (Yes, it's a word.  I looked it up). I love ALL of his series (Easy Rawlins mysteries, Fearless Jones mysteries, Leonid McGill mysteries and Socrates Fortlow books), and MANY of his stand-alone novels.  Interestingly, there are SEVERAL of his books that I don't like and wish I hadn't read. Some even make me suspect he's off his rocker.

Of all his tales, the Easy Rawlins mysteries are my favorite. The first Easy Rawlins book I read was Black Betty. A teenager I worked with told me it was an incredible book and dared me to read it.   

I was deeply in love with Easy by page 3. 

Easy took me to Los Angeles in the 40's and 50's and engendered images of a time and place so real that I could feel the segregation, racism and hate, like steam rising up from the pages. From Easy I learned a history of the United States that was never even hinted at in school. There is much more to the Easy Rawlins mysteries than a vivid recounting of race relations in the United States, but as a white, middle-class woman living in the 21st century, that aspect of the story is what hits me the hardest.

It is also probably why the young man I worked with "dared" me to read it. He told me he didn't think I could handle it. In some ways, he was right. I think back about why I actually took his suggestion and read Black Betty. It was because I was surprised that he felt so passionate about a book. The surprise I felt was based on a stereotype I held of a young African-American man living in a group home, not  upon really knowing or understanding him. I wish I could tell him that his suggestion had a profound effect upon my understanding of the world. So, this post if for you, Patrick. Wherever you are.

Have you read a book that deeply affected your worldview? What was the book? In what way did it change how you view the world?

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