As we celebrate National Book Week, Dimakatso Songoane reflects on a book that changed her life and the importance of reading.
I am not really an avid reader. My love for reading dwindled after high school, which to this day I still do not understand. The only reading I did after school was of textbooks at varsity – something I am not proud of.
A few years later, a colleague recommended a book to try out after I confessed to her, “I want to start reading again. It is disappointing that at my age I have already given up on empowering myself with some form of written literature.” I wanted to try something new, something that would also make me consult my dictionary when reading it.
She gave me I Write What I Like by Steve Biko. This book changed my life.
Bear in mind that I had not read and finished a book or novel in a while; I didn’t know what to expect nor how I was going to feel after reading the book.
The book is a compilation of writings by the late anti-apartheid activist, from politics to what was happening in his personal life. One of the main themes in the book is Black Consciousness, which is what the late activist is renowned for.
This book changed my life in the sense that it made me re-evaluate myself in terms of identity and expression of self. Who am I? What do I want in life? What is my purpose in life?
I Write What I Like showed me that I do not always have to be in people’s shadows. I can have an opinion of my own and I have a brain of my own. I also do not have to make myself feel good by bringing others down. I do not have to conform to society’s ‘norms’. More than anything, I am a human being and deserve to be treated as such, and to treat others likewise.
Reading should not be seen as the responsibility of teachers only. It is important that society as a whole promotes reading. Parents and teachers should work together to achieve this.
I believe reading should be promoted from an early age. It should be a habit and lifestyle, not something one feels forced to do. For as long as you breathe, you should read. And, as Magaret Fuller says, “Today a reader, tomorrow a leader”.
As for me, my reading journey continues…