The Early Years — When I was a youngling
I have always had a love for reading.
I can remember when I was little, I would sit on this hideous 1970s couch next to my mom and read with her. I was obviously older than in this picture, but I had to share a photo of that couch.
I was probably more like this age. And I hated that couch. It was scratchy and not comfortable. But, I didn’t care because I got to hang out with my mom. Wasn’t she groovy?
I didn’t really “read” yet. I just looked at the plethora of Little Golden and Disney books we owned.
When I was in grade school, two of my favorite authors were Shel Silverstein and Judy Blume. It’s one of the few times in my life when I actively read poetry. And, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was essential reading for any pre-teen girl in the 1980s.
- Shel Silverstein Where the Sidewalk Ends book cover (www.shelsilverstein.com)
- Shel Silverstein poem “Warning” (https://sites.google.com/site/kjtkwebquest/introduction)
- Judy Blume book covers from http://www.judyblume.com (collage created by me)
It was during this time that I got into reading comics, as well. I used to love visiting my aunt and uncle’s house because my cousins always had the best comics. Mad Magazine and Marvel fed into my growing fascination of the weirdness of our world and the weirdness of human behavior. Comics in the 80s were going down dark paths of the human psyche telling stories about alcoholism and drug addiction. The “War on Drugs” was going strong at that time, so reading about addicted superheroes was fascinating to me.
Mad Magazine was my first adventure in satire. And, I loved it! Even at a young age, I could recognize they were pointing out and poking fun at the hypocrisy of the world.
- Images in slideshow
- Collage of Mad Magazine covers from https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/vintage-1970s-1980s-mad-magazine-lot-1734783721
- Image of IronMan from https://www.marvel.com/comics/issue/9359/iron_man_1968_128
- Image of The Amazing Spider-Man from https://www.marvel.com/comics/issue/6919/the_amazing_spider-man_1963_96
Because I liked the weirder stuff when it came to reading, one of my cousins introduced me to Stephen King. I began with the novel Firestarter, and I was instantly hooked! King quickly became my favorite author. One year for my birthday, my mom got me a subscription to the Stephen King Library. Every month, I received one of his books until I had them all. I am still subscribed, and now, every time he releases a new book, I get it before it is released to the public. It was one of the best gifts I have ever received!
Image of Firestarter book cover from https://speculativechic.com/2019/04/15/my-favorite-things-with-david-silverberg/firestarter-stephen-king/
Now, because it was the 80s, girls like me were teased if we liked anything other than cheesy “girly” type things. So, in an effort to not be weird, I read all of the Sweet Valley High books. Yuck. But, there was one of the SVH books that I did enjoy, although probably not for the reasons other girls my age did. The thirteenth novel in the series was called Kidnapped! And while everyone else worried about the fate of Elizabeth, I wanted to know more about the kidnapper; why did he do it, what was he thinking, and what happened in his life that led to this behavior? I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the beginning of a new literacy journey.
My Twenties — The Era of Literacy Awakening
I graduated high school in 1991. About 3 months later, Nirvana release their album, “Nevermind,” and an awakening occurred. I had always loved music and movies as a kid, but it wasn’t until my late teens/early twenties when I began to relate to lyrics, stories, and characters.
Image of Nirvana from http://www.shilpaahuja.com – https://ar.pinterest.com/pin/11118330316108482/
I worked at Best Buy in the music department where I absorbed every bit of music and movies I possibly could. What was it like to work in a music department before the media digital age? The movie Empire Records sums it up perfectly. It was a great time.
Gif of Lucas and AJ from Empire Records from gifer.com – https://gifer.com/en/EGXX
I was still reading a lot during this time. But, my reading choices began to hone in on the dark and macabre. For the second time in my life, I enjoyed poetry, as long as it was written by Edgar Allan Poe. I also began absorbing true crime and anything written about serial killers. I was getting my bachelor’s degree in psychology which only fueled my fascination with the dark side of humanity. I have read my copy of Helter Skelter so many times, the cover has fallen off.
Image of Edgar Allan Poe cover from http://www.barnesandnoble.com
While in my undergraduate program at BGSU, I realized I loved writing papers. I loved research, breaking down texts, and analyzing them. I also found a love for creative writing; short stories, mostly. Of course, my stories always took a dark turn no matter how light and cheerful they may have started. One of my English professors told me I should reconsider my career path and think about becoming a writer. But, my mind was made up. I was going to law school, then the F.B.I. where I would work in the Behavioral Sciences Unit and catch serial killers.
Image of typewriter and paper and pen from Boston Globe article https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/08/03/lifestyle/fiction-pandemic/
Image of Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit cover from http://www.amazon.com
The Legal Years — Losing My Literacy
Law school requires a lot of reading. And, compared to what I was used to reading, most of it was not fun. Research and writing were now solely based in the law. Don’t get me wrong, some of it was interesting. Spending a semester researching and writing a seminar paper on Napster and copyright law was great! But, reading for pleasure was lost. Analyzing text to look at the human psyche was lost. And, in my last year of law school…
With that life change came a career change, and I ended up here…
No, I didn’t end up in an Eminem video. (I wish!) I ended up in Detroit practicing bankruptcy law. I spent the majority of the next twelve years at 211 W. Fort Street where the main bankruptcy court for the Eastern District of Michigan resides.
211 W. Fort Street Building (Photo courtesy of District Capital, https://www.dbusiness.com/daily-news/foster-financial-acquires-211-tower-in-downtown-detroit-plans-10m-renovation/)
Fun fact, though, my office was in the Michigan Building, and its parking garage was once the Michigan Theater. So, I got to park where they filmed parts of 8 Mile and the “Lose Yourself” video, at least. (That’s actually my lime green Beetle in the top photo)
Images of parking garage of Michigan Building
Top photo by George Steinmetz – https://www.researchgate.net/figure/In-color-online-see-Parking-inside-Detroits-Michigan-Theater-photograph-by-the_fig2_274411987
Bottom photo by AFP/Getty Images – https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2569368/Is-worlds-grandest-car-garage-The-abandoned-movie-theater-middle-Detroit-shut-insufficient-parking-space.html
Collage created by me
Most of my reading and writing during these years continued to be legal in nature. I was responsible for writing all appellate briefs. I even had the opportunity to argue in front of a three judge panel at the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals (something no one else I knew could claim).
More than a decade of lawyering took its toll on my mental well being, so I left that world behind.
Today — A Literacy Resurrection
After leaving the legal profession, I was desperate to find a career I would love. I remembered my English professor’s words from so long ago, and I decided to finally follow his advice.
I went back to school for a Master’s Degree in English and Creative Writing. Going through an online program meant many early mornings at Starbucks. But, my love for reading and creative writing was being resurrected.
I completed seven chapters of a science fiction novel for my thesis but lost interest in the story after graduation. Since then, I have written several short stories and started a new novel. I have not published any of them, but I’m not really interested in that aspect at the moment.
I began teaching English composition classes, and I finally felt like I was where I was meant to be.
English Teachers meme created by me at http://www.imgflip.com
After three years of being an adjunct, I was accepted to the BGSU PhD program in Rhetoric and Writing Studies. And, here I am in my second year of the program and in the beginning stages of my dissertation. A dissertation that will combine my love of true crime, serial killers, psychology, and my general love of words and how they affect people. I will be examining the media, and its role in a continued silenced narrative surrounding men’s violence against women. My plan is to analyze phrases and words used, and the amount of coverage in serial killer cases. Looking deeper, I will study how race, gender, and socioeconomic status play a role. I truly believe my literacy history has led me to where I am today and to this dissertation topic. And, I can’t wait to research and write it!
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