By V. Jolene Miller
Reading on the Run
Binge reading on the run because everything else can wait.
ABOUT THE COLUMNIST:
In Alaska, I’m a behavioral health instructor by day and a Ph.D. student by night. When I’m not teaching, I have my nose in a textbook or a scholarly article. These days, my writing is nonfiction and my puppy, Omar, is lucky if I can spare ten minutes to play fetch. I still carry a book in my purse because I hope to get a few minutes to read. Fifteen minutes before dawn, in between assignments, or right before falling into bed. Reading is my resting place.
This fall, I’ll be reading a new book. I don’t have the typical feelings about immersing myself in this one. You won’t find me caressing the cover in anticipation of getting a break from the day job so that I can read a few pages. There is a high probability that I will not be anxiously mentally debating which character is my favorite. I’ll be highlighting sentences and looking up vocabulary words, but it won’t be the same.
My book of (forced) choice is Applied Statistics I by Rebecca Warner. Have you read this? If so, did you do well with the concepts? Are you perhaps interested in tutoring me?
I joke—sort of.
Math, in any form, is not my thing. I remember being in early elementary school and being clueless as to why my answers did not align with the teacher’s answers. We used the same numbers. We used the same formula. There was a crossed signal somewhere between my brain and what my pencil put on the page. As I approach the start date of this next semester, I won’t lie. I. am. Nervous.
The stakes are higher. Well, maybe not higher, but the big picture looms larger in my mind. Failing this course would mean money spent without reward. It would mean delaying the gratification of finishing this degree program on time. Let’s face it, retaking the course is an unpleasant thought.
While contemplating my future read (and stressing out about it in the process), I recalled a book quote that helped calm my frazzled mind. (Don’t you love when that happens?) Ironically, a few years ago, during another postsecondary degree adventure, Helena María Viramontes’ book Under the Feet of Jesus was added to my assigned reading list. From page 1, this book, the characters, the imagery had me, hook, line, and sinker. I felt the characters’ angst. I was transported to their location and era.
If you aren’t familiar with this novel, let me introduce you. Don’t worry – no spoilers here!
Petra and her common-law husband are Mexican immigrants. They are migrant laborers in California working in the fields with their children. Their story is one of courage, determination, and resilience in a land where they were separated from family…
And, that’s all I’m going to say about that! Trust me; it’s a must-read!
Anyway, in one scene of the book, Petra tells her partner, Perfecto, that there’s this thing she has to do. Like, she has to. There is no other option for her. But Perfecto, knowing what’s at stake, says she can’t do this thing.
Petra’s reply is eloquent and firm. “Tell me to go to the devil,” Petra replied, “tell me I’m crazy. But don’t tell me that. Don’t tell me I can’t.”
Isn’t that a stunning reply? It’s the kind of quote you want to frame and hang in the room where your biggest challenge lies. Perhaps, next to your desk, where that Statistics textbook sits? Just an idea.
Thankfully, Petra’s wisdom permeated my frantic mind. After just one day, I stopped listening to the Intro to Statistics podcast at the gym and returned to my favorite Spanish education podcast. ¿Que tal? Los libros son una magia excepcionalmente portátil. –Okay, so I had to use a translator app on some of those words, but they still ring true! Books are uniquely portable magic.
Not only did Under the Feet of Jesus magically transport me to the fields of California, its contents transported me out of my panic-filled mindset. They returned me to a calmer version of myself. Books are magic like that.
I challenge you to explore a book this week. Explore someplace magical. Get to know a new culture. Learn about new places and different people. If you aren’t sure what to read, consider one of these: The Culture Map: Breaking the Invisible Boundaries by Erin Meyer or Book of Peoples of the World: A Guide to Cultures by Wade Davis, K. David Harrison, and Catherine Herbert Howell. If those aren’t your style, consider Under the Feet of Jesus…or perhaps Statistics I? We can start a book club together….As long as you’re leading the discussion, I’ll take notes!
Article originally Published in the October / November 2021 Issue: Read Global.