A Reformed Snob

How a sisterly challenge changed my reading perspective.

I’m a literature snob. I admit it. If it is listed on a banned book list, I’m all over it. If it’s popular fiction, I’ll add it to my reading queue. If it’s a classic, I’ll probably enjoy it. So, how does this make me a snob? I’m a literature snob because I want to read what I want to read when I want to read it; I don’t take personal suggestions.

That all changed, however, when my sister issued a challenge that I couldn’t refuse. Her challenge was simple: I’ll read one of yours if you read one of mine.

A bit of history might be handy right about now, so here you go.

My sister, Vicki, is 2002 graduate of Purdue University with a degree in English. I started out as an English major, then opted to be an English minor, then dropped that possible career path altogether to pursue various degrees in communications (graduating in 2010). Regardless of our degrees, however, we are both avid readers. She usually leans toward 19th century British literature; I generally gravitate toward American literature.

While enjoying dinner a few weeks ago, we began discussing the finer points of our respective genre preferences, but our debate was abruptly stymied by our lack of expertise concerning the other’s preferred genre. I don’t care to be uninformed on a given topic, let alone one that involves literature, so this didn’t settle well with me. My wise sister then laid down the aforementioned challenge and I couldn’t refuse (in general, I lack the ability to turn down a challenge… they are a weakness of mine).

In order to make this a fair trade, we established some ground rules. We would each select works from any genre within our personal libraries for the other to read providing that 1) the other hadn’t read it before, and 2) we were able to intelligently discuss any book that we selected for the other to read.

With the rules in place, we each went home pondering what piece of literature we would select for the other to experience. After perusing my shelves, I selected The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton. It has been a favorite of mine since I first read it in high school and I thought for sure Vicki would hate the style of writing (Yes, you read that right, I selected a book I thought she wouldn’t like… I thought it would liven up the exchange!). Vicki selected The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier, a lesser-known work by the author of Rebecca.

Though I attempted to keep an open mind, I was skeptical at best about liking the du Maurier work. It just seemed too stogy for my taste. But, true to my word, I hunkered down that evening and began reading. The first evening, I stayed up way too late and read half the book! The story and the writing fascinated me; it was brilliant! The next day, I texted Vicki to let her know that I was hooked and she informed me that she had finished The Outsiders in one sitting; she loved it!

Upon finishing The Scapegoat a few days later, I realized that my snobbery had been keeping me from enjoying some excellent books. Much to my chagrin, I had to admit that the book swap had been a brilliant idea, one that had truly opened my eyes. It’s as Dr. Seuss says in I Can Read With My Eyes Shut, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Hmm… I wonder what she will give me to read next.


“There Are Too Many Interesting Women…

…that I have never met because I have been brainwashed.” – Dustin Hoffman, reflecting on his experience with Tootsie.

Dustin Hoffman & Tootsie

This video has left me somewhat emotionless. I’m not sure whether to be saddened by the fact that Dustin is just now realizing this (watch the video to understand what “this” is) or to be thrilled that he finally understands this.

There is another layer to this reality that I won’t try to get to in this post (essentially, how this isn’t just a female issue), but the point in this video clip that hooked me was when asked to be made into a beautiful woman. He knew that this experience was going to be a challenge, but even he understood that being beautiful would make it easier better and even he was struck by a desire need to be attractive beautiful.

How many people are overlooked because they don’t look like we believe they should. How many women have esteem issues (yes, yes, I know it’s called SELF esteem, but that doesn’t make having it any easier) because, try as they might, they don’t look like a model. How many children are written off early in life because they aren’t cute? How many people aren’t heard because the words coming out of their mouths are overshadowed by a physical trait that doesn’t quite cut it?

Sigh… you’re thoughts?