A Book Left Behind

I typically get to campus an hour before class starts. When I’m feeling responsible, I’ll start an assignment early or get a healthy(ish) dinner. Sometimes I grab a coffee to ensure full attention, or as much as possible, during a 3-hour class that I’m attending after a full day of work. 40 miles away from home.

But this week has been insane so I’ve been taking small, but important, steps to prioritize my self-care. The other day, a student left a book in my College & Career Center. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. It looked like a class copy and I had no idea who left it so the safest bet was to return it to the school library. Before doing so, I read the first couple of pages—easy to breeze through considering it is a Young Adult novel. The intro intrigued me, so I asked the library staff if they had a copy available for me to borrow. Sure enough, I left work with a taped-up, numbered copy in the fashion of a library on a public school budget wanting to preserve their precious wares.

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When I arrived at school last night, I gave myself permission to sit down and read for leisure. 23 pages into the book, I’ve already teared up twice, contemplated my blessings, and confronted my privileges. In the first-persion narrative, Junior descends into vivid details about life on an Indian reservation—poverty, hunger, alcoholism, child neglect/abuse, inaccessible healthcare, racist stereotypes, and the cycles that bind generation after generation to this life. All this among teenage angst, living with disabilities, the value of friendship, and quirky cartoons. After spiraling into such heavy issues within minutes, I reconsider my choice to read this YA book as a means of winding down. But at the same time, I am glad that a book with this type of content exists for young readers and proud that it’s being read as a class. I hope these students can find the same type of escape, perspective, and reality check that I encounter when I read.

A classmate walked up to my table and noticed the book, telling me she read it in high school. [Now I’m wondering if the book is older than I thought, if I am older than I thought, or if she is younger than I thought.] She tells me she enjoyed it and starts gushing about it. [And now I’m wondering if she has a really good memory or high school really wasn’t that long ago…] This increases my excitement for the book as some chance of fate brought us to the same grad program and classes so we must share some of our interests and taste in books. I could probably finish this book in one sitting, given that I find a chunk of time to do just that. But alas, work and school take up much of my day. Who’s to say I’ll even enjoy the way it pans out… but one thing is for sure–my short encounter with this lost-and-found item has given me such great pause to appreciate life’s seemingly small details.

 

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