Sunday, June 3, 2012

Family Business/Sharing Books

Winter's Hill Vineyard

UNO Press

Last week, visiting my family's winery, one of the wonderful women who often works special events there told me she'd bought a copy of Beyond the Islands for a friend of hers who would be diving in the Galápagos. What should she tell her friend about the book? Pirates, I said. Pirate treasure, and small-town boosters, and scientists amazed at the varied and impossible life of the islands. Poets and teachers and tourists. 

Book sharing is a family tradition, part of our daily lives, part of the family business. How many wineries sell literature in translation in their tasting rooms? Probably not too many. For me, it's been a wonderful way to get the books to people who might not otherwise find them, to make connections that might not otherwise be made.

I doubt I would have embarked on the same teaching/scholarly career or perhaps on translation had we not spent 15 months in northern Ecuador when I was in middle school. I would have been writing, but I might not have found my way to Latin America, to Ecuadorian narrative, to the Galápagos Islands and back. I might never have learned Spanish.

The classroom may be a more traditional space than a tasting room for literary connections but there, too, the specific links can be unexpected. A student recently approached me before class with a copy of Beyond the Islands. "This is my mother's favorite book," she told me. "Will you sign it for her?" Naturally, I was delighted--I only wish Alicia Yánez Cossío had been on hand to sign it, too. If I hadn't had a lecture to deliver, I'd have done a little happy dance, too.

What am I reading this week? Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card. It's one of those (too numerous) books I'd meant to read for years. I finally picked it up when my daughter, who read it for school, pronounced the novel, "Not my all-time favorite book, but close." I haven't yet reached the chapter that tipped the book from "really good" to "close to all-time favorite" status for her, but so far, so good.

Does your family share books? 

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