So, here we are on Day 3 of Book Blogging Appreciation Week. It’s about the half-way point of this incredibly fun and interactive event and today’s topic/question is a good (but sorta tough!) one:
“What does Book Blogging mean to you?”
Goodness gracious, where does one begin with a question like that? I sit here wondering: Should I take the question literally and point out the various elements of Book Blogging that are specifically relevant to me and my blog, such as writing reviews, hosting events, or babbling about literary topics?
Or, perhaps I should talk about the events like Top Ten Tuesdays, Literary Giveaway Blog Hop, and Banned Books Week that are hosted by other bloggers, but which are enjoyable for me (and so, therefore, I try to participate in them as often as possible).
But, the more I think about it, the more I want to really answer the question of meaning. For some, book blogging is a fun hobby: it is a way to connect with other like-minded people who have similar interests. Book blogging can be a means of expression, or it can be a reading journal, or it can be a professional platform which is intended to lead to bigger and better things.
All of these elements of Book Blogging are valid and important, and they are absolutely part of the purpose for me, too; but purpose is not meaning.
So, what does Book Blogging mean to me? Well, this is where I put my serious face on. This is where I become sentimental and revelatory. This is where I thank the casual readers for stopping by and let them know that I understand if they decide to click on to the next blog, now.
Book Blogging has meant, for me, two things:
Most people who I know now or whom I have met recently assume that reading has always been an important (or even the most important) part of my life. After all, I currently hold two degrees in English (B.A. – English; M.A. English, emphasis in American Lit.) and I’m working on my third (Ph.D.) right now! But, actually, it was not until my second year of college that I really became a reader. In fact, I started college as a Biology Pre-Med major, with every intention of going on to Medical School and becoming a physician (oh, if only I had a Time-Turner!).
Sure, I read books when I was a kid. I read Goosebumps when I was young (I used to wait eagerly for the Scholastic catalogs to come out so that I could get my hands on the next ones!). In junior high, I read The Giver, My Brother Sam is Dead, and And Then There Were None. In high school, I remember reading Of Mice and Men, Kaffir Boy and Macbeth. I enjoyed reading – I liked pretty much every book I tried (with the exception of The Great Gatsby, which I learned to love much later), but I never saw reading as a pursuit or hobby that could actually “be something.”
After my first year of college, I had some medical complications which quickly and permanently resolved me against the pursuit of an M.D. I was in search of another major. I tried History. I tried Geology. I tried Spanish. I found myself, in the middle of my junior year, still without a permanent, satisfying major: What the heck am I supposed to be doing with my life!? And then I tried English. College-level English. The in-depth, close-reading, study and analysis of literature. Hello, World!
Once I figured out that my place, my destiny, was to be with literature, always, it wasn’t long before I discovered the world of book blogging. I had already been keeping an online journal for my personal thoughts and creative writing. But I was reading so many books for classes (and promptly forgetting what they were all about just a semester later) that I realized I needed to store this information somewhere, for future reference.
My first blog became a second. My second became a third. The third blog, finally, was specifically a book blog – and that blog became Roof Beam Reader. Now, more than three years later, I have a distinct “Book Blogger” presence and personality. It is so different from what I ever expected of myself but, somehow, it is everything I always wanted it to be.
For all my life, I have been gay and, for most of my life, I was very overweight. Although I did not “come out” until college, I suffered from a young age the burden of hiding who I truly was. I also had the added difficulty of growing up “the fat kid,” who was teased, bullied, and picked-on from time-to-time (though my experiences were not nearly as horrendous as I have witnessed of others). In college, I managed to get in shape and to become friends with an extraordinary group of people; but, though I became more comfortable and satisfied with my physical experience – it was still what the world couldn’t see that was haunting me.
There was (and, to some degree, there still is) a fear of not being accepted or of being simply “tolerated.” And, scariest of all, there is always a fear of being truly persecuted because of who I am. For the most part, I have been fortunate enough to have friends and family who are incredibly caring and accepting (although, they’re so beyond “accepting” that accepting doesn’t seem to fit). Still, there have been and always will be people who just can’t seem to look past this one part of me to see the whole of me, or to even be willing to try. I remember one day, in college, coming home from class to see the word “FAG” written in black permanent marker on my apartment door. I couldn’t imagine what I might have done to upset someone that much, and it was a very long time before I realized that I wasn’t the one responsible for how they felt and for what they did.
For me, although I have had a semi-charmed life, compared to what many have experienced, I have learned enough about life and about human nature to know that we all need a safe space. Roof Beam Reader, just a book blog, is, nonetheless my book blog. It is my space to say, think, and feel what I want, without fear of rejection or disapproval. It is also my space to welcome others – all others – and to guarantee that, when they are here, they, too, have a safe space to share, to communicate, to learn, and to laugh.
So, this is what Book Blogging means to me. It means owning who I am and welcoming others to be a part of my journey. It means giving others, those who are like me or not, a safe space to talk about the one thing we all have in common: a love of books and reading! It means meeting people from all over the world, growing vicariously through their experiences and hoping to share with them some of my own.
Book Blogging, in effect, means more to me than I could ever express, and I sincerely thank each and every one of you who have made a place for me in this world.
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You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence. Octavia E. Butler
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