I first heard a book read in the early 2000s, in a repurposed garage with red iron sheets for a door, partitioned into two to accommodate Primary one and two pupils. A few times in the term, we all sat in a circle after lunch, quietly exercising our imaginations while listening to the teacher read alongside the kid with the best English.
For the most significant part of my education, I was one of the many Ugandan students lost in an examination-oriented education system. Always reading to pass and never for pleasure. Maybe I had a chance at nurturing the culture, but going to schools with libraries stocked with only textbooks and tension on campus that had kids walk around with novels covered in Picfare pages, the odds were very low on my end.
Ten years later, while visiting an Aunt during vacation, I was once again intrigued by well-written children’s stories that treated my imagination to an ecstasy. I found Sleeping Beauty, Jean, and Peter book series among other Lady Bird childhood classics while organizing my cousins’ school cabinets that holiday.
I read all the little books in one go, and I loved being in an imaginary world for those few minutes while I read. A feeling I kept in my memory that I would later not resist when I went to a school that had novels circulating, and students were booking them like answer sheets to a stiff examination paper.
There was a young man, Omulongo, who brought at least five Mills & Boon Novels that trended like goods on the black market. Novels that described dark-skinned men with brown eyes, masculine tone bodies and solid arms would sweep even the timid teenage girl off her feet. I can’t bear reading five pages of erotic romance now but, I still owe my reading culture and creative lover nature to all those reads.
At University, I read only a handful of books, and I particularly remember reading Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray, which changed my perception of being a woman.
I was a snob during the years that followed that I didn’t read a single book for some years, and when I tried, I read one a whole year. Then, in 2018, I made a friend that had a well-stocked home library. Her 6 and 9 years old daughters had a unique reading culture with abundant creativity; they made up skits whenever I visited. Occasionally, she lent me some of her kid’s books that I tried to read quickly and return. I’ve never liked people that borrow books and don’t return them or, worse, not read them at all, ‘I’m not pointing fingers, LOL.’
Before my friend and her family left to resettle back in their country, she gifted me eighteen books which kick-started my book collection that is now growing into a mini-library.
From then on,
I am traveling the world one page at a time.
I am getting life lessons through other people’s eyes, experiences, imaginations, and thoughts.
I am finding my voice and talent through literature.
Witnessing love and loss through ink on paper
Learning, unlearning, and relearning through diverse narratives
Next time I will tell you about some of the journeys reading has taken me on. In the meantime, let me know if you have read for leisure before? Was it love at first sight, or did you kiss many frogs before you made it a habit?