“Langston Hughes transformed my perspective,” expressed Jonathan Escoffery.
is from when I was four years old.
I have a vivid recollection of reading at the age of four.
When I was four or five years old, I read Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad Together in the back of my parents’ car. We had just left a bookstore and were embarking on a lengthy car ride, potentially from Miami to the Florida Keys.
The book that I loved the most as a child.
It might have been Goblins in the Castle by Bruce Coville because I loved the idea of heading off toward adventure through hidden passageways. Retrospectively, I like that it provides witty criticism of xenophobia and our prison systems. I also loved There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom by Louis Sachar, which I would have read when I was eight or nine. Bradley gains a reputation for being a troublemaker, and tries to improve his behaviour, but finds it’s an uphill battle. It is one of the first books I can remember reading that features a bit of an antihero; a protagonist with a faulty moral compass, but who is still worthy of our empathy.
The book that changed me as a teenager
When I was 13 years old, I read The Empire of Fear by Brian Stableford, a vampire epic that offers a different version of history where vampire aristocrats hold power in Europe and Africa. It was the first time I had encountered such explicit depictions of sex and violence, and it may have been the only time since then. However, it was also the first novel I had read that openly addressed issues of race, gender, and sexuality, tackling questions of identity and how it shapes our experiences in the real world.
The author who altered my perspective
Langston Hughes’s essay The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain shifted my worldview and my approach to writing fiction in my early 20s. It helped me see that engaging with all aspects of my identity, and specifically my race as a Black man, would expand the boundaries of my writing and imagination, rather than limit them.
The novel that sparked my desire to become a writer.
The book Goblins in the Castle inspired me to craft my own thrilling adventures for readers. Reading Nella Larsen’s Quicksand reignited my determination to one day publish my own book. In my mid-20s, this novel spurred me to write boldly and sensitively about issues of race and gender.
The book I could never read again
I have repeatedly read Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find and have become increasingly disenchanted with it each time. Despite its clear displays of anti-Black racism and other forms of discrimination, I am skeptical of its ability to truly delve into the complexities of the human experience.
I came across this book at a later stage in my life.
I regret not reading James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time earlier. It concisely reveals the subtle ways of American racism. I did not read it until my late 30s.
is “The Great Gatsby”
I am currently reading the novel “The Great Gatsby.”
Elaine Castillo’s collection of essays, How to Read Now, prompts us to view the world through an anti-racist perspective.