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

57 Folder Collection
林宜悉 published on October 9, 2019
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