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Yes! Reading is Fundamental

I wrote this article on my personal blog in January 2014.

I came across a brilliant read by New York Times writer, Charles M. Blow, that took me back many decades, and struck a chord, and I want to share it with you. The article took me back to a time at the Ghana Trade Fair when I bought my very first book, instead of something more appealing to kids.

Going to the trade fair back then was unparallelled to any other kind of family outing - outside of Christmas. And for me, it was the one time of the year when I got to feel like we were back in the United States. There was cotton candy, popcorn, carousel and roller-coaster rides, showrooms filled with beautiful things from hand-crafted jewelry to home appliances, tiles, and fabric. And let's not forget the kebabs grilled on open fires, ice cream, and the popular playground where lovers hid in the dark doing the things lovers do. It's where families came to have a fun time.

Anyway, at one such fair, my father gave me the option to choose between getting candy and buying a book I really wanted. I could only have one. I chose the book. It was a novel called Twins. I walked through the rest of the fair with my family, watching them go through their cotton candies and kebabs while I held my book to my chest. I lost the book in a fire a few years later and I can't remember the name of the author, but it was the tale of twin sisters (one a model, the other a detective) who both secretly wanted to be with the same man. Of course, he chose the model, the prettier twin. Long story short, a serial killer who had been targeting women of a certain look tried to kill the model twin with a knife - his known weapon of choice. Her sister works her case while her sister lies disfigured in the hospital fighting for her life. While working on her sister's case she discovers that underneath the jealousy she has for her sister lies an indescribable bond of love. I share this in case anyone happens to have read it and can tell me where to find a copy.

And since I mentioned the fire, let me also tell you about that, because it also happened because of a book. It was early evening in Accra, and the electricity was out. I was waiting for my father to come home from work. I usually couldn't sleep until I knew he had come home. I lit a candle and decided to read a book to while away the time. I set the candle on top of a toy blender on my dresser. Somewhere between chapters 5 and 6, I fell asleep only to be awakened by the smell of burning rubber and smoke. The candle had started a fire in my bedroom. God saved my family from that fire. By the time my father came home, the fire was out and the whole left side of my bedroom wall was colored in black.

The point I was trying to make was this: yes, reading is fundamental. I share the sentiments of the author in his article and can relate to that young yearning for the written word and the appreciation of how books have since become a part of my lifelong journey. Books have shaped me into the woman I am today. I have learned things I wouldn't otherwise know from books, and from reading just about everything. Books saved me from isolation and confusion growing up. They offered refuge from youthful solitude and opened my eyes to the fact that my issues were not a monopoly. There are thousands, if not millions of people who have gone through the emotions I've gone through. And just like the author, I cannot imagine a world in which one quarter of its citizens haven't read a book in an entire year.

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