Is there anything better or more promising than beginning a new book, the endless potential of falling in love with not only new characters but writing?
There is when the book is There There, the debut novel of Tommy Orange. It is astounding. So much so that I’m about 100 pages into it, and I have already read and reread and reread again some beautifully crafted phrases.
But, this isn’t a review. It’s about the joyful journey that happens when you gingerly crack open a new book, as if being careful not to damage secrets within. Something happens to me when I get my hands on a book. Being able to feel its weight and the texture of its front cover pale in comparison to what happens when I take a step into the text.
Starting a new book is much like your first steps into a pool of water. Sometimes, the water is too hot or too cold. Your body is jolted into a reaction beyond your control. It is a raw shock to the system that reminds you of the fragility of the human condition. Other times, the water is just right: a refreshing contrast from the hot or cool air that you’ve grown accustomed to at that particular moment. You are able to ease into the pool comfortably with gentle anticipation of what will unfold. It’s an embrace.
It is an experience that thrills me, one that I seek, and it gets better. This delight is enriched by having a group of friends share in the journey. When I attended National Writing Project’s Resource Development Retreat in Albuquerque a few weeks ago, I had the fortune of collaborating with some incredible minds as we planned our first inquiry cycle for our Digital Democratic Dialogue work. Exploring with Dr. Nicole Mirra, Dr. Anterro Garcia, Christine Puntel, Peter Haun, Molly Robbins, Mary Richards, Carla Truttman, and Emma Gargroetzi was life-changing. (Much more to come on that one.) I cannot contain my excitement about this important research.
One discussion that popped up was potential texts. Christine suggested There There. It’s a novel about several characters living in Oakland sharing their Native American experiences. Many of us agreed to take a deeper look into this title, and this connection through reading is energizing. There’s great anticipation and the struggle not to reveal too much. Most of all, there is this reverence of reading. A vast amount of appreciation for the act of engaging with words.
It is powerful. It is essential.