The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared/Alice Ozma: Reflections

Sunday, June 10, 2012

We've grown accustomed to reading memoirs about bad parents.  The subtle sleights and the overt abuse.  The houses that were never homes.  The cruddy meals.  The mental blows.  Seamy undersides and broken seams yield story.  The make for hyper drama, page-turning gossip.

And yet it is redeeming to read the quiet tale, the sweet (but is it simple?) tale, of children loving parents who loved them back.  And that's what we have in The Reading Promise:  My Father and the Books We Shared.  The book is, to quote Ozma, "about the act of reading, and the time spent doing it.  The book is about the 3,218 nights my father and I spent reading anything and everything we could find.  The books are important but the conversations they started, and the bonds they created, are what really matter."

It's a relationship book, then—far more than a book about particular books.  It's a series of anecdotes and a defense of time spent kindly together.  There's more dialogue in this book than one tends to expect in memoir (for it is difficult, of course, to remember precisely what was said).  There's little tension between the daughter and the librarian-father who loves to read aloud.  And while more might have been done to help us understand just what these many books taught or said, that was (again) never Ozma's purpose.  She values her father.  She thinks kindness counts.  She wants, for other children, what she had with her dad—time together, time with books, time when the big world without is silenced in favor of the big worlds within.

Those are, I think, very fine want-able things.


Becca said...

I've been watching my daughter-in-law reading to my little grandson every day, building just this kind of quiet, loving relationship around the shared pleasure of reading. What a gift, and one well worth celebrating.

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