I have a very special relationship with the Library. In order to explain, please indulge me by allowing me to share my story.
I spent my childhood in Tokyo, Japan. My Dad was in the Air Force. Now, don’t you dare call me a military brat, although you would be accurate. I prefer the term military princess. The Japanese love children and I had a wonderful childhood. I am radically extroverted and it started when I was a kid. I remember walking down the streets of Honshu with our Japanese Mama-san and the people would crowd around me, touching my skin and hair. I waved like I was the queen on a float in a parade. I got in trouble for giving out my phone number in the third grade. Speaking English was my badge of honor. It fascinated and inspired every Japanese student of English.
My fate changed, however, the day my father got his orders to return to the United States. We were so excited to finally be coming back to America and we arrived at my mother’s hometown of Mt. Pleasant, Texas. This east Texas town is tiny and it only had one stoplight. The solitary cab stopped at 5pm. Two industries inhabited the town -- a chicken slaughterhouse and a stinky refinery. For my grandmother and aunts, “The Help” was an everyday reality. It could have been 1930 instead of 1970. Racial inequality and oppression was the status quo. Unlike our beautiful Pleasant Hill, which is indeed very pleasant, the only thing pleasant about Mt. Pleasant was in the name.
I knew nothing of being an American, nothing about being in the south and nothing about being Black. This fact cannot be understated.
To compound my woes, my mother got TB and was quarantined for eight months in a hospital eighty miles away. My father went to seal his fate by finishing up the war in Vietnam. My two brothers and me were left with my grandparents. Born in 1896 and 1900, respectively, they have now what I call -- the shock and awe campaign of raising me.
You may not be aware of this, but there are many rules for being black in the south. I was to be invisible and not heard. Another was language. My beautiful language made me stand out like a sore thumb. “Who does she think she is,” was the most common complaint. My adoration from Japan turned into abhorrence in Texas.
I was bullied. I was ostracized. I was renamed Jap for the entire time I stayed in Texas. I had the distinction of being discriminated for being two races at the same time. It would have been more manageable if I were a kid that just blended in, but I could not. I was so traumatized that I lost the ability to think to myself. Everything that I thought came straight out of my mouth like a shooting bullet. It had hilarious and tragic consequences.
I am not bitter at all about my journey to America. My social ineptness allowed me precious time with my amazing grandmother. It provided me with an openness and acceptance for all people that I probably would not have possessed. I learned how to adapt to any social situation and I have a performance play that I wrote and produced entitled “Unidentified”. It is a comedy about my Blackenese experience. But the best gift that I received is a lifetime sanctuary.
There was just one place in school was my sanctuary. It was the only place that was safe for me before and after school and at lunchtime. It was the place where my imagination sought revenge and I escaped a harsh reality I could not control. It also saved and enhanced my language skills. That wonderful place was the library. I read and read and read. I became magical and changed people into donkeys and fleas. It became my home and the only place that I was rewarded for being myself. I have transferred this lifetime love of libraries to our wonderful Pleasant Hill Library.
Every single employee of our Pleasant Hill Library is a hero of mine. It is a place that supervises our Middle School students until we parents can pick them up after school. It has a summer reading program that is second to none. Have you met our children’s librarian, Patrick? He is an amazing young man with a huge smile and the patience of a saint. Help me to support the Pleasant Hill Library. Please support our libraries with your love, too. Join and support our committee: the Pleasant Hill Library Fund. You can reach us at PHlibraryfund@gmail.com. Join the “We Love the Pleasant Hill Library” Facebook page. Or you may contact me at through the Patch.