101 page autobiography
by Leon Walter Tillage
When Matt and I moved together from second grade to third, I decided that if I was going to ask my class to record their reading, I should do it too. And I should do it in a thorough enough way that I would feel comfortable sharing it as a model of reading records and what you can learn from them with my class.
I began recording my reading in earnest that year. I have ever since. It is fun to look back at the summary and consider a “reading year.” I sort by genre – adult and children’s. The first year I noticed I was I was missing poetry. I set a goal to fill that hole, but I didn’t. I don’t read books of poetry. Maybe I don’t know how – more likely I haven’t taken the time.
For four years I’ve been recording every book, choosing favorites for each year and considering how reading added and changed my life. I felt fairly balanced as a reader until last year. I read 78% fantasy combining both the children’s and adult books I’d read. Fantasy?!? I decided that I needed to focus on other genre, slow down and think. My first move was to read Yes Chef a memoir by Marcus Samuelson. Next I read The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro. These books challenged me to think in new ways about my world – chasing flavors, creating rich exotic combinations to satisfy every palate; building layer upon layer upon layer of paint until the light and luminosity of the color radiates from the canvass.
I read to know myself better, differently and to understand our world more fully. So my goal is to be more aware of what I read and why…
I read Leon’s Story, a collection of memories from his life growing up as a sharecropper’s son in the 1940’s. Everyone should read this book. Can you imagine seeing your parents run down on the road? Can you imagine seeing them run over and the only thing that happens to the driver is that his daddy forces him apologize the next day? That’s it because the driver is white and Leon, black. “Boys will be boys.” Can you imagine walking home from school always listening for the sound of the bus, always ready to run, always ready to shield the little kids? Always feeling fearful because the bus driver of the white kids’ bus might drive by so they could throw stones at you or even stop so they could chase and beat you. I knew things were not good, but I never could imagine those things. Leon’s stories add depth to my understanding in a way that only someone’s real story can. Racism is a terrible thing – made worse without real understanding. Leon’s Story reveals this with gentle grace that will fill you full of wonder and determination to make kindness and appreciation of people a priority.