How do You Read?


(Photo Credit: Gabriella Photography)

Dear All,

When I was in first grade, my room teacher made our class of 65 students read out loud together stories from our Chinese textbooks. It was then I discovered I had a reading disorder.

I couldn’t follow my classmates’ unified chanting voices to finish reading a story. My eyes couldn’t follow the words, sentences, and paragraphs in the order that made up a story. Specifically, I’d read the first couple words in the opening paragraph and then jump to the end of the page to read a sentence, then wander back to the middle of the page to read a few words, and then back to re-read the opening paragraph.

Now, I didn’t just do it with the first page of a book. I did it with every single page.

I still do it. I can’t help it. It’s how my brain works.

This makes me a very slow reader, especially when I read English and German. It makes me a very slow writer, too, as you might imagine why. But that’s not the worst problem.

The strange way my brain works causes me to read the last page of a book first. Always.

During my first MFA residency (my graduate school program) I had a meeting with my advisor to get to know each other. I told him about my reading disorder. He snorted and said, “So?”

“So?” he said. “Why should I care if you have a reading disorder that doesn’t even have a scientific name? Did you find it out today? No? Okay, then you came into this program fully aware that you’re expected to work around your so-called disability and produce quality work just like everybody else, right? Then suck it up and go to work.”

I never told anyone about my struggle again.

I never told anyone why I dread and fear reading out loud excerpt from my own book in front of others.

But I’m telling you this now because I know the majority of the people see “reading the ending of a book first” as an unpardonable sin. I’m a sinful reader in that regard. You can curse me for it. But I just want to let you know that sometimes people judge too quickly and forgive too slowly. And when they do, they leave no room in their hearts for understanding and acceptance.

No room in their hearts for understanding and acceptance. We don’t really want that, do we?


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