Monday, July 12, 2010

Guest Post: Phoebe Kitanidis

I'm truly happy to have Phoebe Kitanidis guest posting today here. First, she's one of my favorite authors and one of the kindest I have ever had the opportunity to talk to. Second, today is her birthday—what makes all this even more special, right? Third, Whisper, her debut book released this year on April 27th, is amazing and super well-written. I love it to death! I hope you all enjoy reading what she kindly wrote for our Challenge guest post.

The Day That Reading Was Cool

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I’m writing this guest-post while eating a warm slice of peach pie. (I’d love to send you some, if such things were possible!) My guy baked it for my birthday, because fresh ripe peaches bursting with juice are a summer treat I adore. So are beach bonfires, ice cold watermelon, night swimming, parades, 4th of July fireworks, and lounging on a blazing beach with a stack of novels. Still, as much as I love all these things, I’ve never seen myself as a “summer person.” Maybe it’s because growing up, my summers were spent visiting relatives back in Greece, far away from my home, my best friends… and my books.

For me packing for those trips was an art form unto itself. Knowing I’d be spending three months in a country with no English-language kids books, I crammed my clothes in as tight as possible to make room for the maximum number of novels. Then, there was the issue of which books made the cut. Just a twist ending or non-stop action wasn’t enough. Re-read value was a must. I needed characters I could live with, worlds I could walk around in all summer. Sitting on my grandmother’s balcony in Athens, or lying on my stomach on a sandy island beach, I read and reread the works of Lois Lowry, Christopher Pike, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Judy Blume, etc. till they literally fell apart. Even then, I couldn’t bear to part with my favorites, and stuffed the pieces back into my suitcase to take back to America.

Back then, most of my friends didn’t share my craving for books. They looked at me funny when I said I usually finished all the books I brought in the first week. So while I loved reading, I never used to connect it with community or friendship. If anything, I thought my love of reading made me stand a little apart. But in a post-Harry Potter, post-Twilight world, with today’s vibrant culture of book bloggers and online book clubs, that’s changed. I’ve been thrilled to watch the blossoming of a new kind of reader pride. I see it all around me. It’s also been happening in my own perspective, the way I no longer view my reading habit as odd or antisocial.

It didn’t happen all at once, but certain moments stand out for me as turning points. I’d like to share one with you. An excerpt from my (then private) blog written on July 21, 2007, the day Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out:

Today was a day for readers everywhere. Since I had tons of work to do though, I told myself I’d read it tomorrow or next week. Minutes later I caught myself searching for spoilers online. And before I could scroll down and find out who dies in the final battle, something in me said, "No! I don't want to be spoiled. This work can wait. For one day it is normal in my culture to do nothing but read, ie what I do every day, and I will be a part of that". So I marched down to my itsy-bitsy, teeny-weenie, miraculously-still-has-great-inventory local bookstore and bought a copy.

It weighed a ton. As soon as it was in my hand, I felt a surge of excitement. I wandered down the street to the coffee shop with it and began to read, ignoring my latte for hours. At the tables across from me other people were doing the same thing. Exactly the same. Same book! It was almost creepy. Like in the old days when there was only one TV channel and everyone in the country watched the same show. How strange and wonderful to be reading a novel and feel like I fit in perfectly with everyone around me. Sometimes when I’m reading, I have guilty moments of remembering all the stuff I probably “should” be doing instead. Today it was the opposite. I felt 100% free to lose myself in this world of fantasy. I didn’t even care that the book made me tear up in that café. Laughing and crying over a book is just part of being me… but for once I wasn’t the only one.

When the cafe closed, I knew without a doubt that the other readers were going home to finish reading HP7, just like I was. I read the last page that night in bed, beside a purring grey crescent on my white comforter, rooftops catching rain outside my bedroom window. A magical day. I felt like—well, it would be dumb to say I felt like a kid again… because it was way better than being a kid.

Your turn: do your friends and family share your love of books? Is reading considered cool or nerdy among those you know?

Best of luck to all in the Summer Reading Challenge!

I can't thank you enough, Phoebe. You're awesome! Happy birthday, favorite!
P.S.: Happy Birthday, Erica (from The Book Cellar
)!

7 comments:

  1. Phoebe is AWESOME =) Whisper was an awesome read as well =) Great guest post =)

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  2. Aw, I loved it SOOO much!
    I didn't read Whisper yet... and I feel ashamed for that. OMG, how could I not read it yet? What am I waiting for?

    I'm saying this because while I was reading the post, I was completely understanding every word, every feeling. Everywhere I go I have to have a book with me. If I'm going to travel, to stay out for a week or more, I carry A LOT of books.

    And the feeling of having a book you just bought in your hands is amazing! *-* Everytime I buy a book I feel like... fulfilled with a total happiness!

    Unfortunately, among all my friends and family, I'm a nerd. I shouldn't "waste my money" buying books. I shouldn't "waste my time" reading compulsively, I should go out more. It's terrible. Besides my blog friends, I don't have any other friend that I can talk with about books. It's a pity. My friends don't have the same likes I have.

    Thank you very much for you post, Phoebe. I really loved it!
    And thank you too, Raíla, for hosting this amazing challenge! I'm posting my first review today! *-*

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  3. Ai mais que legal e CHIQUE! Adorei o post e concordo com ele.
    :*

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  4. Well I live in a french community, so pretty much no one reads the books I do. While most of my friends at work read (mostly different genres, and in french), my family don't really read.

    I stopped by from the Comment Exchange Program

    ReplyDelete
  5. Happy Birthday, Phoebe!!

    Love this post! Ah, how I miss the day HP7 came out...that was an awesome day. I'm pretty much the only reader in my family, and my parents have always liked that I love to read (they definitely always preferred my love of reading to my brother's love of video games). Although, now my family thinks it's a hobby I should let go of now that I'm an "adult" (definitely not happening). A lot of my friends think it's lame, sadly. They're definitely missing out!

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  6. Great post,Phoebe!I,too,am ashamed to say I haven't picked up Whisper yet *hangs head in shame*
    How long is it from the last time you visited Athens?A loooot of people read now,well a lot by Greece's standards,but it's a change very much welcome!Basically after Twilight all the bookstores started piling up on YA books and a lot of them have been translated.It's amazing,I can't believe it myself!

    Also:Xronia polla!!!!(Happy B-day in greek-again :)

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  7. Thanks all for the lovely comments and birthday wishes! :-) Even if your friends or family don't understand book-love, we readers will always have each other to share the excitement of great books.

    To @AtenRa and @Mariana, there's no shame in reading or not reading a book! I hereby absolve you--and think you should only read Whisper if/when you feel like it... and not a moment before. (I'm a terrible salesperson, but that's okay.)

    And @AtenRa, I know Athens has improved its reading options by a TON since the 80s when I was a book-devouring child. (Yes *gulp*. The 80s) I'm happy that YA-fandom is growing in Greece.

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