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  • A long time ago, there lived a Giant,

  • a Selfish Giant, whose stunning garden was the most beautiful in all the land.

  • One evening, this Giant came home

  • and found all these children playing in his garden,

  • and he became enraged.

  • "My own garden is my own garden!"

  • the Giant said.

  • And he built this high wall around it.

  • The author Oscar Wilde wrote the story of "The Selfish Giant" in 1888.

  • Almost a hundred years later, that Giant moved into my Brooklyn childhood

  • and never left.

  • I was raised in a religious family,

  • and I grew up reading both the Bible and the Quran.

  • The hours of reading, both religious and recreational,

  • far outnumbered the hours of television-watching.

  • Now, on any given day, you could find my siblings and I

  • curled up in some part of our apartment reading,

  • sometimes unhappily,

  • because on summer days in New York City, the fire hydrant blasted,

  • and to our immense jealousy, we could hear our friends down there

  • playing in the gushing water,

  • their absolute joy making its way up through our open windows.

  • But I learned that the deeper I went into my books,

  • the more time I took with each sentence,

  • the less I heard the noise of the outside world.

  • And so, unlike my siblings, who were racing through books,

  • I read slowly --

  • very, very slowly.

  • I was that child with her finger running beneath the words,

  • until I was untaught to do this; told big kids don't use their fingers.

  • In third grade, we were made to sit with our hands folded on our desk,

  • unclasping them only to turn the pages, then returning them to that position.

  • Our teacher wasn't being cruel.

  • It was the 1970s,

  • and her goal was to get us reading not just on grade level

  • but far above it.

  • And we were always being pushed to read faster.

  • But in the quiet of my apartment, outside of my teacher's gaze,

  • I let my finger run beneath those words.

  • And that Selfish Giant again told me his story,

  • how he had felt betrayed by the kids sneaking into his garden,

  • how he had built this high wall,

  • and it did keep the children out,

  • but a grey winter fell over his garden

  • and just stayed and stayed.

  • With each rereading, I learned something new

  • about the hard stones of the roads that the kids were forced to play on

  • when they got expelled from the garden,

  • about the gentleness of a small boy that appeared one day,

  • and even about the Giant himself.

  • Maybe his words weren't rageful after all.

  • Maybe they were a plea for empathy,

  • for understanding.

  • "My own garden is my own garden."

  • Years later, I would learn of a writer named John Gardner

  • who referred to this as the "fictive dream,"

  • or the "dream of fiction,"

  • and I would realize that this was where I was inside that book,

  • spending time with the characters and the world that the author had created

  • and invited me into.

  • As a child, I knew that stories were meant to be savored,

  • that stories wanted to be slow,

  • and that some author had spent months, maybe years, writing them.

  • And my job as the reader --

  • especially as the reader who wanted to one day become a writer --

  • was to respect that narrative.

  • Long before there was cable or the internet or even the telephone,

  • there were people sharing ideas and information and memory through story.

  • It's one of our earliest forms of connective technology.

  • It was the story of something better down the Nile

  • that sent the Egyptians moving along it,

  • the story of a better way to preserve the dead

  • that brought King Tut's remains into the 21st century.

  • And more than two million years ago,

  • when the first humans began making tools from stone,

  • someone must have said, "What if?"

  • And someone else remembered the story.

  • And whether they told it through words or gestures or drawings,

  • it was passed down; remembered:

  • hit a hammer and hear its story.

  • The world is getting noisier.

  • We've gone from boomboxes

  • to Walkmen to portable CD players

  • to iPods

  • to any song we want, whenever we want it.

  • We've gone from the four television channels of my childhood

  • to the seeming infinity of cable and streaming.

  • As technology moves us faster and faster through time and space,

  • it seems to feel like story is getting pushed out of the way,

  • I mean, literally pushed out of the narrative.

  • But even as our engagement with stories change,

  • or the trappings around it morph from book to audio to Instagram to Snapchat,

  • we must remember our finger beneath the words.

  • Remember that story, regardless of the format,

  • has always taken us to places we never thought we'd go,

  • introduced us to people we never thought we'd meet

  • and shown us worlds that we might have missed.

  • So as technology keeps moving faster and faster,

  • I am good with something slower.

  • My finger beneath the words has led me to a life of writing books

  • for people of all ages,

  • books meant to be read slowly,

  • to be savored.

  • My love for looking deeply and closely at the world,

  • for putting my whole self into it, and by doing so,

  • seeing the many, many possibilities of a narrative,

  • turned out to be a gift,

  • because taking my sweet time

  • taught me everything I needed to know about writing.

  • And writing taught me everything I needed to know about creating worlds

  • where people could be seen and heard,

  • where their experiences could be legitimized,

  • and where my story, read or heard by another person,

  • inspired something in them that became a connection between us,

  • a conversation.

  • And isn't that what this is all about --

  • finding a way, at the end of the day, to not feel alone in this world,

  • and a way to feel like we've changed it before we leave?

  • Stone to hammer, man to mummy,

  • idea to story -- and all of it, remembered.

  • Sometimes we read to understand the future.

  • Sometimes we read to understand the past.

  • We read to get lost, to forget the hard times we're living in,

  • and we read to remember those who came before us,

  • who lived through something harder.

  • I write for those same reasons.

  • Before coming to Brooklyn, my family lived in Greenville, South Carolina,

  • in a segregated neighborhood called Nicholtown.

  • All of us there were the descendants of a people

  • who had not been allowed to learn to read or write.

  • Imagine that:

  • the danger of understanding how letters form words,

  • the danger of words themselves,

  • the danger of a literate people and their stories.

  • But against this backdrop of being threatened with death

  • for holding onto a narrative,

  • our stories didn't die,

  • because there is yet another story beneath that one.

  • And this is how it has always worked.

  • For as long as we've been communicating,

  • there's been the layering to the narrative,

  • the stories beneath the stories and the ones beneath those.

  • This is how story has and will continue to survive.

  • As I began to connect the dots that connected the way I learned to write

  • and the way I learned to read

  • to an almost silenced people,

  • I realized that my story was bigger and older and deeper

  • than I would ever be.

  • And because of that, it will continue.

  • Among these almost-silenced people

  • there were the ones who never learned to read.

  • Their descendants, now generations out of enslavement,

  • if well-off enough,

  • had gone on to college, grad school, beyond.

  • Some, like my grandmother and my siblings, seemed to be born reading,

  • as though history stepped out of their way.

  • Some, like my mother, hitched onto the Great Migration wagon --

  • which was not actually a wagon --

  • and kissed the South goodbye.

  • But here is the story within that story:

  • those who left and those who stayed

  • carried with them the history of a narrative,

  • knew deeply that writing it down wasn't the only way they could hold on to it,

  • knew they could sit on their porches or their stoops at the end of a long day

  • and spin a slow tale for their children.

  • They knew they could sing their stories through the thick heat of picking cotton

  • and harvesting tobacco,

  • knew they could preach their stories and sew them into quilts,

  • turn the most painful ones into something laughable,

  • and through that laughter, exhale the history a country

  • that tried again and again and again

  • to steal their bodies,

  • their spirit

  • and their story.

  • So as a child, I learned to imagine an invisible finger

  • taking me from word to word,

  • from sentence to sentence,

  • from ignorance to understanding.

  • So as technology continues to speed ahead,

  • I continue to read slowly,

  • knowing that I am respecting the author's work

  • and the story's lasting power.

  • And I read slowly to drown out the noise

  • and remember those who came before me,

  • who were probably the first people who finally learned to control fire

  • and circled their new power

  • of flame and light and heat.

  • And I read slowly to remember the Selfish Giant,

  • how he finally tore that wall down

  • and let the children run free through his garden.

  • And I read slowly to pay homage to my ancestors,

  • who were not allowed to read at all.

  • They, too, must have circled fires,

  • speaking softly of their dreams,

  • their hopes, their futures.

  • Each time we read, write or tell a story,

  • we step inside their circle,

  • and it remains unbroken.

  • And the power of story lives on.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

A long time ago, there lived a Giant,

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B1 US TED read garden giant slowly narrative

【TED】Jacqueline Woodson: What reading slowly taught me about writing (What reading slowly taught me about writing | Jacqueline Woodson)

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    林宜悉 posted on 2019/10/08
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