Today, groundbreaking poet Nikki Giovanni offers a heartfelt story of her father winning her mother’s affection not with roses or a diamond ring, but with the gift of a precious book. Her Read Forever guest author post reminds us that a love for reading is often passed down from generation to generation, an important lesson in today’s busy world.
A Day Pass To Heaven by Nikki Giovanni
Gus Giovanni + Yolande Giovanni
(1914-1982) + (1919-2005)
My father who seldom got things what I would call "right" hit the jackpot when courting my mother: he brought her A Bell For Adano which she loved. Or maybe she just loved the idea that a man would think to bring a book. Being on a winning track he gave her A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. She married him. And my big sister was born. I always say that the reason a couple has another child is that the first one needed if not perfection a bit of tweaking. My sister heartedly disagreed but they had me anyway. I may not have been an improvement but I did love, do love, to read. No matter what else is wrong in the world a book will take you away from it. My sister was a reader, too but she never liked to discuss the characters. My mother did. And so do I.
My favorite story that Mommy would read to me was King Of The Golden River. I recognize it now as a parable but I loved it. And would read it to myself when I learned to read. Gluck's brothers were so mean. I loved it that they turned to stone. Mommy's favorites were things like Gone With The Wind or All This And Heaven, Too. I was reading from her library by the fifth grade.
But it wasn't until the discovery of Toni Morrison that we both found a book we could talk about and truly explore: Sula. Mommy found Toni on her own and asked me, excitedly, had I heard of her? I was pleased to say, "I know her." Mommy and I read and reread Sula through the years.
As Mommy was drifting away from this world I sat on her bed and wrote poetry to ease the pain of losing her and alternatively read Sula to her aloud until my tears blocked the words. We had come full circle. I'm sure my father, who didn't get things what I would call "right" very often, got a day pass to Heaven and was waiting for Mommy with a cold beer and a book for them to share.
Poet, activist, mother, and professor, Nikki Giovanni is a five-time NAACP Image Award winner and the first recipient of the Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award. She also holds the Langston Hughes Medal for Outstanding Poetry. The author of 27 books and a Grammy nominee for The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection, she is the University Distinguished Professor of English at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and an Oprah Living Legend.
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