Devouring bold coffee bean with milk, sweating shamelessly from the heavy heat, I begin to prepare myself for the day of reading ahead. Once I find a place to rest my back, I observe the enormity of the text in front of me. Tracing its worn, elegant spine, I am not intimidated by the endless scrawl inside. If today there are images to be seen and pondered about, I make sure to spend time looking. I contemplate the cover art, tail end synopsis, remarks from critics, and, finally, the “dedicated to” section, glimpsing into the life of a writer I am already in awe of by virtue of insisting on the tangibility, complexity, and relevance of storytelling. Vivid accounts of utopian communities on mountaintops and honey-sweet rivers inform the visions conjured in my imaginary through literature. My reading does not end with the absorption of words into images. Their messages become part of my vocabulary, my free-flowing blood. My relationship with the text, a wild affair, is steeped in mutual honesty: our probable friendship curbs loneliness. When I engage with stories, I do not feel alone.
I try carrying reading material with me everywhere I go: a Value Village receipt, sweet potato recipes, teen fiction, an article on cyberfeminism, little black notebooks. Why do I feel comforted by scribbles, trivial or life-changing, willfully planted on paper by their scribblers? What is it about black literary magic that makes me want to try scribbling too? Something about meaning-making, about recording, about nakedness, draws me in so deep I am forever hooked. My favorite tales contribute to parts of my own story, lending me the characters, objects, and circumstances of my dearest authors, refusing to return them in fear of self-deterioration. Broadly, the act of naming, describing, and inventing, is itself a captivating process worthy of attention. Like a devoted Widow spider to her intricate, silky web, writers weave meanings into the fabric of their speech, packing agonizingly heartfelt sentiment into all. To venture into a land formed by the flowery vigor of words is to learn a little more about our very human desire to create, and above all, to share with others. Within that exchange lies real possibility for change, and there’s a good chance it will begin with you.