First Generation Reading

Jhumpa Lahiri reminisces:

In life, especially as a young girl, I was afraid to participate in social activities. I worried 205964about what others might make of me, how they might judge. But when I read I was free of  this worry. I learned what my fictional companions ate and wore, learned how they  spoke, learned about the toys scattered in their rooms, how they sat by the fire on a cold day drinking hot chocolate. I learned about the vacations they took, the blueberries they picked, the jams their mothers stirred on the stove.

For me, the act of reading was one of discovery in the most basic sense—the discovery of a culture that was foreign to my parents. I began to defy them in this way, and to understand, from books, certain things that they didn’t know. Whatever books came into the house on my account were part of my private domain. And so I felt not only that I was trespassing but also that I was, in some sense, betraying the people who were raising me.