When I was a child, the public library on Osborne Terrace in Newark, New Jersey, was one of the first places I was allowed to walk to all by myself. I went every week, and I can still draw a map of the children's room, up a flight of stairs, where the Louisa May Alcott books were arranged to the left as you entered. Nonfiction, near the middle of the room, was loaded with biographies. I read several, about Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt, Marie Curie, Amelia Earhart and Helen Keller, with whom I share a birthday.
But by the time I was 11, the children's library was starting to feel confining, so I snuck downstairs to the adult stacks for a copy of The Good Earth. (I'd overheard a grown-up conversation about the book and it sounded interesting.) The librarian glanced at the title and said I wasn't old enough for the novel, and furthermore my card only entitled me to take out children's books. I defended my choice. I said my parents had given me permission, which was only half a fib since my mother and father had never denied me any book. Eventually, the librarian relented and I walked home, triumphant. My world would never be the same.
Anita Diamant's second novel, Good Harbor (Scribner), will be published in paperback in October.
What's on Anita Diamant's Bookshelf? Read more!