02 December 2008

The Book of Courtney: Anne Frank, Jewishness, Readership, and Don't Forget Happy Jewish Book Month!

I am one of Anne Frank's descendants. So to speak. (So, it's wildly appropriate that I am right now reading Ellen Feldman's The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank.) I read Anne Frank's eponymous diary at 13 and was inspired--the idea was one that had always appealed to me--to start my own. It is a practice I've kept for almost 20 (!) years.

I'm not very analytical or (at least I hope) self-obsessed about "my writing," but I do realize my style and voice were formed by both my journal-keeping and having read rather a good quantity of Victorian literature by the time I was 14. The wit evidenced in this blog (it galls me when male acquaintances exclaim, surprised, "Your blog is funny!" Why, yes, dipshits; I'm hilarious, actually) was honed by diary entries cataloguing, a tad snidely, perhaps, the absurdities offered to me by the world--and I it. Most importantly, though, keeping a journal or diary got me writing on a regular basis, made writing a habit. And, of course, the regular habit of writing does have the added benefit of putting one on a nodding basis with the likes of grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Or, more than that, it became natural for me to express myself or even to think in writing and words. Which is, I hear, important for people who write.

Last week I finished reading Elisa Albert's The Book of Dahlia, a book brought to my attention--like Feldman's--by the Jewish Book Month display at my local library branch. Though I found the style a bit too junk food-y for my liking, I'm very glad to have come across it. It was of interest to me because it, in part, dealt with an American woman's experience of Israel and the Hebrew language. And I realized, come to it, that my experience of reading and writing is actually very much rooted in the Jewish experience. (See Anne Frank above.)

Judy Blume's Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself was my first experience with the Jewish experience--if I hadn't read that book I wouldn't have spent a semester at Tel Aviv University, studied Hebrew, or learned about the Holocaust. (In an amazing aside, it was actually in Israel that I first heard of Harlem Renaissance novelist Nella Larsen and read her books Quicksand and Passing.) My favorite book for many years was Amos Oz's Black Box, which I also discovered b'eretz. In fact, my Blogger profile's Favorite Books list would be shite without Jewish writers and Jewish themes.

Reading is as necessary as breathing for me. I obviously have to thank my Black goyische education-major mother for instilling that passion, for making sure I became a person of the book.

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