Like most writers, I’ve always been obsessed with libraries. My obsession extended to me earning a master’s degree in library science, publishing an article about zine collections in Public Libraries magazine, starting a zine archive at the State University of New York at Buffalo, and volunteering both at the library on Alcatraz(!) and my local library.
Libraries hooked me young. As a child from a working-class background with not much money to spare, the library was the first place I’d ever used a computer. The role libraries play in providing learning opportunities to children of all backgrounds cannot be overestimated. I can say with confidence that libraries changed my life.
As a freshman in high school, a kind teacher who noticed that I had already finished the books at my grade level passed me a printout of the official AP reading list. Off I went to the library, where I took out novels by Toni Morrison and Richard Wright—works so unlike the Shakespeare and 1950s boarding-school novels on the syllabus in my class. I felt challenged and enchanted by the style of the writing and the moral complexity that reflected the world I lived in. I’m convinced that I was made a writer by this self-imposed reading challenge, which required books that I could not have accessed without the library.
Though I’ve never worked as a professional librarian, when I moved to San Francisco I answered an online ad to volunteer at Alcatraz working with their collection related to the history of the island and the prison. It was a thrill to take the staff ferry in the foggy San Francisco mornings and work in such an extraordinary place.
My book, Housebreaking, is about a young woman from a small town in New England who is forced, uncomfortably, to confront both her past and her future when she returns home to sell her parents’ house. I hope it’s a book you and your patrons find interesting.
In closing, I’d like to thank the libraries that made me the writer and person I am today: the Russell Library in Middletown, Connecticut; the Boston Public Library; and the San Francisco Public Library.
With best wishes,