“In Praise of Books and Reading Well: My Journey with Books”
I love good and beautifully written books. I also admire and have great respect for writers who use language with precision and clarity and words with great economy, emotional and intellectual restraint, and linguistic control.
I must admit the fact that I am a bibliophile and have always been a book enthusiast since I was a kid–growing up in Haiti, a country where books and good public libraries are rare. However, Haitian literature is very rich, and Haiti is a country of great writers, great minds, and great literature. Arguably, the country of Haiti has produced some of the most important, prolific, and influential writers in the Americas, writing in French, Spanish, and English languages.
Nonetheless, I became more conscious about my love for books, uncontrollable interest in good writing/ writers, and the weight and glory of good words and the correct usage of the right words when I was probably in 5th grade. In 7th grade, my passion for good books exploded with an enormous and enduring zeal that would eventually shaped my High school years, and eventually my academic life and my identity as a writer.
In Haiti, I attended an all-boys Roman Catholic School, Collège Notre Dame du Perpétuel Sécours (CNPS), a rigorous and college preparatory school that has trained some of the most brilliant minds, who originated from Northern Haiti; Haiti has ever produced, such as Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Arly Lariviére, etc. I was able to attend CNPS not because my parents could afford it financially; it was because of my high academic performance and excellence that granted me access to this bourgeois school in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. It was the school where all the rich kids and those in the upper class and the sons of the most powerful figures in society attended. My parents struggled to pay the semester-by-semester tuition and other related expenses. God is always on the side of the poor and the economically disadvantaged group; he generously provided for my brother and me every semester, while we were attending; I managed to make it through the academic year and until my final year of Middle School. The trajectories of my life would change when I immigrated to the United States at the age of 15; I attended a new school, in a foreign environment, a High School that was not like the one at home. Yet, I would find comfort and peace in and through books at the Broward County Public Library in Fort Lauderdale, where I would visit four to five times a week, when school was dismissed.
My favorite Middle School memory was not the time of recess or hanging out with friends, but the memorable Friday when my class would go to the library to check out novels. Oh yes, the visit to the library was the most delightful time in my childhood in Middle school. The school administration and librarian did not allow students to check out more than three books, at one time, but I attempted in several occasions to break the rule and to cheat. In fact, I would take four to five books at one time and take them to the library desk to check out. The library would kindly refuse the extra one or two. That one or two books that I couldn’t check out from the library were usually among the top ten novels I wanted to read for the next two weeks or for the month and before I would return to the library to check out more books.
Books give meaning to life. Good books deconstruct, construct, and reconstruct the human imagination and action, and they breathe new lives to dead souls and the spirit in the dark. They also bring dignity to human relationships and friendship. Books change history, culture, and society. Good books and good writers change people and contribute to human flourishing and the common good.