For this year’s A to Z Blog challenge, I thought I’d draw back the curtain and explore the life and times of a bibliophile. Care to join me?
For the longest time, I though the reason why The Outsiders was required reading in middle school, was because the story was set in Oklahoma, where I was living at the time. I had no idea how popular the novel was outside Oklahoma until the film came out in the early 1980s.
I was impressed that someone wrote a book set in Oklahoma. I was even more impressed when I found out the author was 15 when she started writing it (and don’t get me started when I found out that “S.E.” was “Susan Eloise”). I was living in the suburbs of Oklahoma City, but I knew plenty of places where a runaway might hide. I understood how an older sibling, a parental figure for someone who might otherwise be an orphan, could keep pushing a kid to excel, to make something of themselves. I understood how hurt feelings could lead to feelings of being rejected.
The Outsiders was another book in which I saw myself very clearly. I understood the schism that divided people of different social standings. NCO kid verses officer’s kids. Blue collar verses white collar. City verses country. Jocks verses nerds. I didn’t really get why so many people put so much value on those divisions. All I cared about was whether people were nice.
I frequently found myself straddling lines, being neither fish nor fowl, as it were. I was a certified geek, but I loved basketball, soccer and softball. I was an NCO’s kid, but I had plenty of friends whose parents were officers. My family was predominantly blue collar, yet I was encouraged to pursue white collar interests and career paths. My parents, particularly my father, wanted more for me.
If I thought some of the drama in The Outsiders was a little overblown, I had to stop and remember that, for a lot of teenagers, everything was drama. Me? I avoided drama with the same intensity I avoided anything that might result in detention. My motto was “Keep your head low, and your powder dry.” I saw enough drama around me, though. Some of my friends lived for it.
Reading The Outsiders was almost like a glimpse into my own community. It wasn’t so much a guide to help me understand who I was, but who the people around me were. To this day, when I go to visit some place I’ve never been before, I often read two or three books set in that place, or by writers from that area. It gives me a perspective on who the people really are, what has shaped them, what shapes them still, and what they deem important.