My Mum taught me to read,
She sowed that seed before I went to school.
Voraciously, I consumed
The Magic Faraway Tree, The Famous Five, The Secret Seven,
The Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, The Silver Sword,
Anne of Green Gables, What Katy Did and all the other Little Women,
Bronte, Eliot, Austen.
I breathed in letters, psalms, gospels,
Grew roots, nurtured faith.
What were a couple of books you read that destroyed your childhood innocence?
And I called to mind the teenage me,
For the first time, reading
Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Fay Weldon, Harper Lee.
These stories were acts of hospitality,
Inviting me into a community of women,
Whose fictional truth took some innocence,
(Once you know, you can’t unknow)
Replaced it with some experience,
(And maybe some small wisdom).
I have never been a black woman,
Never had my life turned upside down by prejudice, never lived in slavery,
I have had health care, a good education, the right to work, a functional family.
But I have been a woman.
I have been ridiculed, over-ruled, talked down to, touched inappropriately.
And these stories were acts of hospitality,
Inviting me into a community of women
Whose truthful fiction gave me somewhere to belong,
People who knew my song and sang it back to me.
My Mum taught me to read.
Before I went to school, she sowed that seed.