When I was in second grade, I made a dinosaur in art class. This one art teacher would travel from class to class, meaning we only got to see her about once every two weeks. I don’t remember forming my dinosaur from the clay — a brontosaurus, which scientists can’t even agree is a real dinosaur — with teeny arms and a long thick neck and tail.
But, then came the day to paint the dinosaur. I was told that we only have dinosaur bones… meaning we have no idea what their skin would look like! I immediately painted my brontosaurus all white, added a big black stripe down the back, colored the belly dark purple, and covered the thing in polka dots. I was so pleased with myself.
Until…. until I looked around the room and saw everyone else’s projects. Dinosaurs in brown and green, maybe a touch of dusty blue. But that was it. And in a panic, I started painting over my work with thick green paint. I only got the head covered. Now it looks like my dinosaur is wearing some sort of dinosaur executioner mask for Halloween.
This same nervous “don’t judge me!” mentality has carried on into my reading. I distinctly remember in elementary school the day the Scholastic book catalog would come to class. I would circle all the books I wanted (too many, really) and convince my mom of which ones I would perish without. The young adult novel Don’t Die, My Love comes to mind. I read and re-read that book. A high school couple, Julie and Luke, with a bright future are sent into the unknown when Luke discovers he has cancer. I don’t even need to Google the characters’ names. Read and re-read indeed. Young me loved romance and drama.
But some time in my early 20s, I looked at that book and was ashamed of myself for having read something so trite, so lacking in educational content. Perhaps it was the reason I was not as smart as my peers when I was in college. I was at the University of Notre Dame in the fiction writing program at the time and feared my fellow grad students, each brilliant, would find out I was a trash-reading phony. In a moment of shame, I got rid of Don’t Die, My Love.
Which leads me to today. This summer, I want to listen to a series of audio books by Katie MacAlister in the “Dark Ones” series.
They’re all sexy, funny vampire novels that are set in various locations. MacAlister’s work never takes itself too seriously, meaning it never heads into Wisconsin cheese-fest territory. All of the books are stand alone novels, but similar in theme. Even though I’m still reading “intelligent” books, I’ve enjoyed listening to audio books right before bed lately, and I thought MacAlister’s series would be a good choice.
Where did I hear of these books? I read the first one, A Girl’s Guide to Vampires, when it came out in 2003 and loved it. So fun! Silly, mysterious, set in a different location than the States! I read it twice in one year.
But when I went to find the book pictured above on my shelves last night… it was no where to be found. Did I give it away because I was ashamed again? It didn’t matter that my first vampire love was written by Anne Rice or that I had never read Stephanie Meyers. All vampire fiction was “baby” territory, a place for those too stupid to recognize capital-L Literature. Given the big ol’ shaming the Twilight series took in the media, and the way people wanted to distance themselves from vampire fiction as a result, I wouldn’t be surprised if I stuck A Girls’ Guide to Vampires in the donation box years ago.