I was at a baby shower this week, and the conversation in my corner turned to books people were reading (and no, I didn't bring it up--see the last post about the sad state of my reading list lately). One woman had just finished Reading Lolita in Tehran and wanted to read other books by Islamic women, so I suggested some titles. She also wanted to read some of the books the Tehran group had read and we talked over where she might want to start and why. A couple of other people chimed in on some of the "classics" they'd read long ago. Then another woman noted that she was eager to get back to the Twilight series. Several other women chimed in enthusiastically that they, too, LOVED the Twilight books. Even the Tehran reading woman had read them, though, she admitted, she was getting a little tired of them.
Now, at this point, most of my loyal readers are probably thinking the same thing I was: what in the heck are they talking about? How is there a famous series of books I'm not familiar with at all that everyone else has read? My first thought was that this had to be something like the Work and the Glory series, a set of fictional books based on Mormon history (that I loathe with a passion, for multiple reasons). Turns out I was close, sort of.
The Twilight series is a collection of books about vampires...aimed at young adults...written by a Mormon woman. I then vaguely remembered reading something about this woman a few years ago in Entertainment Weekly and thinking "huh?" at the time, not because I thought it was all that odd that such a person might do such a thing, but it was odd that it would be covered in EW. But who knew that in the intervening time, she would have become somewhat of a cottage industry among Mormon women. And, more importantly, why?? Are these books any good (and the Tehran woman went so far as to say they weren't)? Or are we reading them because of the author's religion alone?
And THEN, the woman who was most enthusiastic about the Twilight series said, "but whenever I pick up a book, I feel really guilty" because she isn't taking care of her kids at that moment. And there were murmurs of agreement all around. And I forgot all about my "why is a YA vampire book so popular just because it's written by a Mormon BYU grad" consternation and turned to "why in heaven's name should you feel GUILTY you are reading because you are a mom" outrage.
Let me be clear: I am not reading a lot now because of issues like exhaustion. Not guilt! Because, how preposterous!! I hardly remember my mother not reading, and I never once begrudged her the time she spent doing it. Such a thought never even occurred to me! In fact, I read with her, often the same books (it was more efficient at the library that way, since we got double the allowed amount if we read the same things). The same goes for my father who had to read for work, of course, but also read every moment he could, including while walking to and from work (which was sort of a neighborhood joke but certainly impressed upon me the importance of carving out time to read).
This post is disjointed and ill-formed, largely because I am at such a loss. Seriously? How can we buy into the rhetoric that reading to your children is a good idea (and of course it is) and at the same time think that reading to yourself is somehow damaging to them. Surely we were not ever meant to read The Little Engine That Could and Your Baby: The Early Years exclusively. And surely I am not going to have to spend the next years justifying my reading for pleasure or, worse still, hiding it from everyone but Jacob. Oh, the (in)humanity!