I have my beliefs, and I have my experience, and, yeah, they're not always identical.
I've spent a fair amount of time on this blog arguing for a child's right to read what she (or he) wants. We don't know, I've noted, what a kid is really getting from a book. The alchemy that happens when the words go from the page to the brain, it's not to be messed with. This is what I believe. Or at least, what I have always believed.
And then there's Diana. Who read so voraciously as a small one that I used to block her view of bookshelves when we went to play spaces so she could do something else for once. She went down the slide reading Little Women. On play dates she was found under the bed with Amelia Bedelia. Or The Secret Garden.
And then one day, she vanished into the internet.
I tried to play it cool. Or really, I did play it cool, but it was just that: play.
See, early on, I'd thought she was traveling along a specific (and familiar) reading trajectory: Little Women –> Jane Eyre –> The Classics.
And then it became clear that she was on another trajectory: Little Women –> The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy –> Tolkein, Terry Pratchett, and beyond. But I figured I knew where that one went too. Sci-fi. Fantasy. D&D. Things I knew.
And then it became clear that her trajectory wasn't something I was familiar with. It went to places I have never been. Fan fiction. Fandoms. Manga. Things that weren't manga but were something else? It was scary.
Had she stopped reading entirely? Or had she stopped reading books? Which was worse?
What if she only read Cute Overload forever?
And then one day, she said, "Hey, you should see this funny thing I found online." Note: this was not the first time she'd said this to us. But this time she took us here. (Yes, she's reading The Great Gatsby in school.)
I hadn't realized, exactly, that I had been holding my breath, waiting for her to come back to something that made sense to me—whether online or off or anything. Until she did.
I am finding that it's hard—so hard!—to watch someone suffer through the process of growing up and creating themselves. I guess I should have known that, right? But it's pretty great too.
F*** the Jazz Age is my personal favorite of those. I look forward to her venturing further out, to places I have never been. I will try not to be too scared.