Corona Chronicles: Reading as Escapism

In 1990, when I moved to Covert, Michigan to live with my grandparents, I felt helpless. There was nothing I could do about living in a remote town of fewer than 2,000 people. There was nothing I could do about not seeing my father. And there was nothing I could do about missing my friends, some of whom I’d known since I was six years old.

I had little control over my life, and I’d succumbed to the idea that I didn’t know what tomorrow would bring or how the next day’s unknown events may disrupt whatever today’s new normal was, kind of like now.

So, in between finishing high school, working at a bank as a 10-key data entry clerk, and messing around with my new boyfriend, I read.

img_3543I read Stephen King novels. There was something about reading scary-ass narratives that could never happen to me that was more comforting than reality.

Misery helped me focus on a crazy nurse, who held her favorite writer hostage and tormented him.

Firestarter swept me away to unbelievable events centered on a father and daughter who’d gained telepathic powers and the ability to set fires.

The Dark Half is a little harder to explain, but let’s just say reading about a fictional author with dissociative disorder was captivating and kept my mind on other things, kind of like now.

img_3500I’m always reading, but lately, I’ve  been reading more, faster. I started Octavia Butler’s Kindred right at the beginning of our country’s serious discussion of the pandemic and finished it just as Florida’s restaurants were mandated to do take-out only, about two weeks.

Right after, I was compelled to find another book. As I’m writing this, I’ve decided on Jasmine Guillory’s The Proposal. It’s a light read that shelters me from 24-hour news cycles and fear-based social media updates.

Unlike when I was seventeen, I’m not burying my head in the sand. I’m fully aware of how I feel and what’s going. I sense the world’s pulse. But I’ve easily slipped into a coping mechanism and I wonder if that’s the way we all function.

Hoarders hoard and fearmongers spread fear because they’ve been triggered. Folks who call others “dumb” and “stupid” for attending Mardi Gras or other group activities may be repeating phrases spoken to them during their childhoods. Like me, they’ve been here before on a smaller scale, but maybe they’ve not been able to process their emotions to understand other ways to function. Being triggered is a thing that’s real, inherent. 

Usually, I write for others, but this piece is more so a reminder from me to me not to judge how others are handling social distancing, quarantines, and death. However, I’m sharing because I do hope in some way it also reminds us all that we’re each doing the best we can, considering our past backgrounds and current circumstances. Even though it may look a little different, we all seem to be in survival mode.

So, if you have some book suggestions to help me escape, add them in the comments below.

3/28/20

~kg

Parts were written for this essay published on The Mighty: How Reading is Helping Me Fight Through Feeling Powerless Over COVID-19.

50 thoughts on “Corona Chronicles: Reading as Escapism

  1. It’s lovely that reading is a source of comfort for you during these times. I’ve heard a lot of great things about The Proposal, I hope you’ve enjoyed it (I’m assuming you’ve finished it by now).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m also reading “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***” which has been very helpful so far. Very pithy. There are little reminders that sometimes it’s okay to feel sad, it’s part and parcel of life, and it doesn’t need to be magicked away.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved reading Stephen King in my teens too. I also went through a true crime phase as a teen. Books were my world. Try wind up bird chronicles, white teeth, zadie THE QUEEN smith, god of small things, Arundhati Roy, middlesex, Jefferey Eugenides, kafka on the shore, Haruki THE LEGENDARY MASTER murukami, the book thief, markus zusak, the corrections, Jonathan Franzen, a brief history of seven killings, Marlon James. All on my book shelf I’m looking at as I write. One of the ones sitting there that I’m yet to read but am confident will be great is the sellout, Paul Beatty. My current almost finished book is Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo and I recommend it too! I’m currently in the process of doimg a uni assignment using the book as an example if giving authentic voices to marginalised characters. I will also check out the Octavia Butler one you recommended.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha! We were connected before we were connected. I don’t get into true crime as much, though. I think you’ve suggested White Teeth a gazillion times, so maybe now I’ll finally read it lol

      Yes…let me know what you think about Kindred!

      Like

      1. Will do! Happy to read white teeth again when you read it too. Mine copy now has Zadie’s signature. Have I told you how much I love Zadie? She’s amazing. You gotta read White Teeth! I reckon I’m an Octavia Butler fan who just doesn’t know it yet. She was an amazing person and I am looking forward to immersing in her stories.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing!.. I let the mood set the stage for the type of book I read at a given moment.. I use a Kindle Paperwhite most of the time though I do have a 10″ Fire HD because it is color and has speakers.. the Kindle is easier to carry around, don’t have to worry about storage (over the years I have accumulated near 2000 books) and doing my part to help the environment for future generations… 🙂

    Hope all is well with you and your family and until we meet again..
    May the sun shine all day long
    Everything go right, nothing go wrong
    May those you love bring love back to you
    May all the wishes you wish come true
    May peace be within you
    May your heart be strong
    May you find whatever you’re seeking
    Wherever you may roam
                      (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This was a very helpful post for me! It’s taken me awhile to realize just what my triggers are in this current pandemic, and identifying them has helped me cope immensely. But you take that idea further: that others are also acting on their own triggers, and that we need to be a lot less judgemental because of that. That’s an excellent point, and one I’d do well to remember.
    As for escapist reading, I’m actually reading old Agatha Christie novels at the moment, because my babysitting duties mean I can only read in small snatches of time so I don’t want to read a book that compels me to finish it. I’m also enjoying reading about a very different time, a different country and a different set of values. It makes me forget what is going on, just for a little while.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Ann! That’s exactly my point about triggers. Sometimes we’re more forgiving of other people’s and less forgiving of our own, or vice versa. I guess I’m thinking now is a perfect time to practice non-judgment of everyone, you know?

      I understand about not wanting to begin a book that you feel compelled to finish. I feel like that about most things. I never want to begin something I can’t be fully invested in.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Reading is one of my favorite escapes. But now, things are tricky. The public library is closed, I don’t necessarily want to OWN every book I want to read, and I despise reading off Kindles or other devices. I’m rereading old (paper) favorites, The Sun magazine, and great posts here on WordPress (as opposed to FaceBook’s million memes about toilet paper). I’m writing too, and most of the time, I find it as therapeutic than reading, maybe more. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I find myself off and on again upset that I didn’t had the chance to hit up the library and bookstores before the closings. Now, I’m binge-watching and reading blogs and such. So I guess that still counts. I also wish I held onto the books I donated around the holidays a little longer. Anyways, I always been a huge Stephen King fan and probably watch more of the movies than reading the books. Fyi- most of the movies doesn’t do the books justice. I couldn’t think of books you might like to read. If I come across them, I’ll let you know if that’s okay.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Growing up, books were my escape. An average of 3 or 4 per week was my norm. To cope these days, I have found myself reading more though this also due to my bookclub. The head just “discovered” some and since there are a lot of senior ladies, we’re meeting twice a month now to keep their isolation away. I need to finish The Proposal too. 😏 Though I haven’t read it, I would recommend Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo since I’ve read her other book and heard some of her poetry slams on Youtube. Think you’d like her.👍🏾

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Like you, from a young age, I read to escape family dysfunction, but I also read and still read for the adventure of it. I just love being told a good story. I second the recommendation Hitting a Straight Lick With A Crooked Stick Zora Neale Hurston. I’m a fan of Sci-Fi, so now that you’ve had a taste of Octavia Butler with Kindred (one of my all-time favorite books btw), pick up another one (Parable of the Sower is intriguing, but maybe too catastrophic for the moment although hope is intertwined). Try What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage. And finally, Beverly Jenkins wrote a series I’ve been a fan of which takes readers back to Henry Adams-a small town originally founded by freed slaves–each book is a fairly light, feel-good read about the power of family, friends, community and second chances.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. First of all, thanks Nailah! You’ve said a mouthful. Every time someone describes my upbringing/family as dysfunctional, I’m like whaaaat? And then, I think…well, yeah. That was dysfunctional, but it was sold as the “greatest family on earth.” I lived a paradox. Anywho, thank you for seconding the Hurston novel, and really I’ve heard nothing but great things about Butler’s other book, so maybe I’ll add that, too (plus your other recommendations).

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Good news, no time to be bored. Doctors are treating patients with the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine; speeds recovery of patients; its cheap, relatively plentiful, and mostly harmless, see blog posting for details: https://wp.me/p2VBZ8-37r

    For me it’s still fresh garlic, multi-vitamins with high vitamin C content, a variety of local tree leaves, herbs, and weeds to brew healing and preventative known teas.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. There has always been good natural things working that are preventative & healing, from the simple to the complex, and they are working where pharmaceuticals are robbing people of their lives and right to life. This just sends my mind into orbit, the heavens above.

        Liked by 2 people

  10. Books first, that’s what you asked of us. Re-read ‘The Dash Club’ and ‘The Mahogany Table’ by Darrell Simms (IT certified engineer) born in New Orleans. Not famous books, but reading them gave me great in site of my late-life friend. In brief, the first, ‘The Dash’ represent – as the mark on a gravestone 1938 – 200? – being the life we’ve lived 81 years – to my sharing this. Hope I’m making this clear. 😉 – can be bold mark or thin mark. Depending on life’s successes or failures.

    ‘The Mahogany Table’ is a fiction auto-biographical novel, first half being true, family names and all. Second half, (includes a murderous dynamite explosion that wipes out his first dynamic engineer team) – novel projections of a IT genius who accomplished great success after resigning from IBM, when they deliberately placed him to manage a unit of employees who met their corporate criteria 100% goals, but never the 105-110%>+. What an in site on a new late-age friend.

    Had my friend not walked away from IBM, which wasn’t his only major corporate former employers; had he stayed connected with the elite IT world, he would have established a great wealth, instead of the imaginary novel IT corporation, a multi-national, international board which directed from around ‘The Mahogany Table’, all accomplishing great wealth and outstanding patented inventions.

    My judgement of this friend mellowed, humbled – he is brilliant, but we use to clash because I’m of the surviving class. My – as in 1938 – 200? may not be as bold in the view of others, yet even if it be but a thin – I thank God I’ve lived to see these ‘terrible’ days; because what was/has been done in deep darkness, is now being exposed to the light of day. The prince of darkness is now the false-light of shinning for a season.

    Grandma Mary Wheeler taught faithfully; “What is done in the dark, will come to the light one day. So here we are.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the book recommendations Mr. M! I understand about the dash. My 93-year-old grandmother talks about the dash all the time 😉

      Thanks also for the remainder of your comment ❤

      Like

  11. Just a few days after I finished Kindred. I found myself saying what will I do to keep my mind occupied while I work from home. Like you, the answer was read another book. For now it’s a Ta-nehisi Coates selection.
    We Were Eight Years In Power

    Liked by 2 people

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