I fell in love at a very young age. It was a love that consumed me so much, a love that affected everything I would become. It was not the love of a person, it was the love for books. They say that when we are born we first learn to crawl, then walk, then talk in that order. I am pretty sure I could read before all that.
My parents bought a lot of books for me and I was simply fascinated by them. I read everything; Harry Potters, Lady bird series, Enid Blytons, African Writers , Shakespearan literature, Science Fiction.
As an African child I was simply fascinated by the British characters I read of in Enid Blyton books, the little children who went to tea with each other, I marvelled at the trials my ancestors might have faced when I came in contact with the works of Achebe, Ngugi Wa Thiongo and Okot P’Bitek. I could not wait to visit America when I read the beautiful poetry of Langston Hughes.
My love gave me a lot of things I cannot be thankful enough for but I got some scars as well. At a very young age I was glassy eyed and could not see a far distance without squinting. I ate at the table no matter how much my parents disliked it. I was too in love with books.
The thing with reading was that it immersed you in a completely different world. You and the characters become one and you completely comprehend in those few hours exactly what the author is thinking. You are in a completely different place, in a different era. I will never forget the day I met Dan Brown’s books, each read provided moments of pure ecstasy. I couldn’t even begin to phantom how someone could come up with such beautiful stories that take place within the space of a day and simply just leaves you begging for more.
Reading introduces you to different people. It makes you very aware of the underlying situation around you. It educates, it enthralls, it entertains, it motivates. It is your last resort when all else have failed to engage you.
Never mind that I had never been to America but before I was twelve, I knew all the presidents and all the states and capitals. I knew how to spell most words my classmates couldn’t because I had read a lot of books. I realised that there was no situation I was in that was foreign; someone had definitely been in my quagmire before. I still feel that thrill when I open a brand new book and inhale the scent of the freshly minted pages, that feeling can only be rivaled with an addicts whiff of heroin after being cutoff for so long.
My literature teacher would argue that a carthasis can only be achieved after a particularly emotional play but I beg to differ. After reading John Green’s The fault In Our Stars, I am pretty sure carthasis is not a good enough word to describe how I felt.
When you read you are so fascinated that a human being can intricately weave characters to form an unforgettable plot, that a book can affect you so much you want to live, eat and breathe it. As I fell in love with books, I fell in love with the characters and the authors too. I simply leave and breathe for Adichie’s words, I am a constant reader of Aravind Adigha’s blogs, I could recite surely not all but parts of l’inferno di dante at a very young age.
Reading influences a lot of things that you do, decisions you make and eventually the person you become, you want to be like the characters you read about. I fell in love with my God given halo of hair; The Afro. Two months later Taiye Selasi’s debut novel convinced me to grow dreadlocks. The books I read undoubtedly shaped my perspective and moulded me into the person I became. I am sure I went through the same journey of self actualisation as Elizabeth Gilbert in her Eat, Pray, Love. On TV recently I watched an interview where Chimamanda Adichie talked about the importance of books as opposed to movies and she is so right. I mean when I hear people say “the movie is not as good as the book” I wonder why they are stating the obvious. How can a movie director hope to duplicate the unbridled energy that comes with the formation of words into entire stories and entire lives.
With true reading comes the motivation to write. I realised after a while that there was nothing like fiction, every fictional piece is a metaphor of factual representation. There is a story behind every story, a theme, a purpose. There are the books that you read and how much they affect you that you simply want to reciprocate and affect the lives of others. I remember writing poems as a child and though you cannot compare the works of William Wordsworth to my doggerels; nonetheless I was motivated to do better. I wrote stories, I wrote sequels, I even wrote plays at a point. I am not a Pulitzer winner and none of my stories have been featured in the New Yorker but my college essays did lead me here. For each A I got in my literature tests I was convinced that writing would feature a great part of who I would eventually become. It is a yearning in me, a fire that needs to be kindled, that hobby that never gets old.
As I grew older it grew beyond stories my exposure to blogs made me a little less narrow minded about the concept of homosexualism. I began to write about racism, the feminist principle, Scientology, Afrocentrism, neo-colonialism. I love that writing is so much of an art. I love that there is no failure, no specific formula for grading people’s works. You cannot say one person’s opinion is better than another because the works of writers are just motivations of who they are within.
Each time I add an entry to my journal I feel a heavy load being lifted from me, I feel much better, less disturbed by the punches life throws so often at me. So each time I feel that thing around my neck, that yearning that threatens to consume me. I will clasp my pen in my hand and begin to pour out my soul on the thin leaves of my journal. I will make lighter the heavy loads of life on my back by writing down what I feel. It might not save the world but it will definitely save me.
Chiamaka is a 20 year old student of the University of Ibadan. She is currently in her 3rd year of a romantic relationship with the department of Law. Books were her first love.
Book Affairs is a MONTHLY series of essays where book lovers explore their unique relationships with books, the pivotal role books play in their lives and their love for all things literature. These essays that promise to be as intense as they are engaging will be published on the FIRST DAY of every MONTH. This is the FIRST in the series.