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January 4, 2011

New website for Literature for Life!

I’m very excited about Literature for Life’s new website, which Stuart and I have been working on together for the past month. And now it’s done. It’s a gorgeous site for an excellent organization, which runs reading circles for pregnant and parenting teenagers in Toronto– go here to find ways in which you can offer your support.

I’m also looking forward to co-administering the Literature for Life blog from here on in. Hope you’ll stop in from time to time.

November 11, 2010

Black, White, and Read All Over

I had the privilege of attending Black White and Read All Over event last night in support of Literature for Life. Keynote speaker was Terry O’Reilly, who talked to us about the power of storytelling. Underlining his message were presentations by three women who have participated in Literature for Life’s reading circles, and read us their poetry and spoke about their experiences as young mothers who were positively liberated by the power of reading and given direction in their lives. The whole evening was so inspiring, and it was thrilling to see such support for this wonderful organization.

Over the next few months, I’m going to be administering the Literature for Life blog, which has an interim home here while we set up the new website. Check out this post in particular to for a remarkable testimonial from a former participant. I’m also going to be working with CreateMeThis in the next few weeks to get the new website redesigned and up and going, and we’re very excited about what lies ahead.

November 2, 2010

Literature for Life Fundraiser

Literature for Life invites you to our premiere fundraising event…

Black White and Read All Over

RBC Plaza South Tower, 40th Floor. 200 Bay St. Toronto

November 10, 2010 @ 7pm

In the past ten years Literature for Life has touched 1700 young women and their children and given them 20,000 books.

Join keynote speaker Terry O’Reilly host of CBC’s Age of Persuasion, CTV Newscaster Andria Case and Noelle Richardson, Chief Diversity Officer for the Ontario Public Service to commemorate this milestone.

Food and Beverage will be provided and sponsored by RBC.

Tickets cost $100 and will are available for sale on our site below. Order yours today from the Literature for Life website (scroll down for order form).

Tax receipts will be issued.

February 2, 2010

Embracing the Ego? A reevaluation

I changed my mind, sort of. After thinking a lot about why we should read, and deciding (along with Fran Lebowitz and Diana Athill) that we should read in order to escape ourselves, I realize that reading is not so simple. That here I sit spouting nonsense about what reading is for from a position of enormous privilege (read: literacy, internet access, enough of my immediate needs met that I have time to sit here spouting nonsense) about what reading is for, but I’m missing most of the story.

It is annoying, I think, when people who spend most of their time gazing into mirrors anyway choose to see literature also as a reflective surface. This, of course, is what Fran Lebowitz called “a philistine idea… beyond vulgar.” But I’m starting to realize that we’re only talking about a fraction of the population when we generalize in this way. There are people with real problems (and I’m sorry quarter-life-crisis-ers, but I’m not talking about you!) for whom literature would be a most productive therapy, and also for whom this kind of personal engagement might be their gateway into books (which is splendid!). For anyone to devalue this kind of reading is incredibly patronizing, and stupid. (And perhaps to devalue any kind of reading is patronizing and stupid too).

I am learning more about the work done by Literature For Life, about their Book Circles whose participants have often never read an entire book before . The first book their groups read is The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah, selected for being plot-driven and for the way in which the story might relate to readers’ lives. Confidence grows from just one book, and so does interest, so that someone who has only read one book before might go and pick up another. So that, yes, a reader is born, but also these readers can begin to address their own problems with the advantage of some distance, that they gain access to a new way of examining and understanding their own experience. Language becomes a tool for self-expression. Subsequent books read become more challenging, but all of them connect back to the readers’ experience somehow, and I see now how much is right with that.

Perhaps what I find most fascinating about the Lit. for Life Book Circles (whose participants are pregnant and parenting teenage mothers) is that these communities of readers approach literature from a wholly different angle than what I’m used to. We all like to go on and on about the use-value of literature, which for most of us is theoretical, but these readers put those theories in motion. These girls whose lives are changed by the power of one book– they are a testament to what literature can do. Those of us who take books for granted can certainly learn something from that.

Anyway, there will be more learning to come. I’m going to be doing some work with Literature for Life over the coming months, and I look forward to sharing those experiences here.

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