As the summer heat continues on in Southern California, I’m still enjoying my leisurely summer reading before the my first fall quarter at UC Riverside begins. I’m currently reading and enjoying T’s battered old copy of Betty Smith’s A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN. I love the young female protagonist, Francie Nolan. I love her spirit, her love for books and her daydreams about future libraries in her home. When I read about Francie escaping to her fire escape near her tree to read, I am reminded of Virginia Woolf’s call to find a “room of one’s own.” I love reading about Brookyn’s history and its people, and can smell the sweat from the tenements, the fresh bread baking, the newly dusted cobblestone roads, the pickles fermenting in a delicatessen. Books like this remind me to slow down in my reading. I’ve recently finished plenty of plot-driven page turners like the HUNGER GAME series, so it’s a nice change to read, re-read and appreciate the language in A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN.
In the midst of all my reading, I’ve started my move to Riverside today. My apartment was certainly not what I expected. Neon green spiders and dried bird poop spots waiting outside the front door; musty library smell inside the apartment; NO DOOR to my actual room (!). The forest behind my apartment proves to be frightening at night (c’mon, it’s been a long time since I’ve lived outside a city!). Although I know I am here to write and study, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed and just plain tired. But — I remembered my anxiety almost two years ago when I moved to Los Angeles for the Emerging Voices fellowship. I had moved into an apartment studio in Westwood with two other roommates. I didn’t know either of them. One was a sorority sister, the other a struggling actor. The space was beyond cramped. The experience actually became funny. I don’t buy into the starving artist, but I make choices and I sacrifice (money, jobs, proximity to family) to write. As my father says, poetry is the reward. I’m blessed to be writing and studying, and hopefully, I’ll be finding my own fire escape or tree to read and write near, and perhaps, a room of my own.