by JAMILA RIZVI
I love books. In fact, I love reading just about anything. I’m a big believer that you have to consume some trash along with your classics. After all, how else would you know the difference?
But there is one genre that I truly hate. And that: is the stupid, stupid vampires.
In hundreds of years’ time, anthropologists will study our generation. In digital lectures – where the professor appears via hologram and students absorb information by scanning barcodes with the computers embedded in their wrists – they will wonder what we were like and what made us tick.
The teacher will ask, through some kind of yet-to-be-invented digital telepathy, “students, what is distinctive about the reading material of generation Z women, that sets them apart from the generations before?”
And the answer will be: vampires.
Generation ‘Z’ are all about the vampires.
I simply do not understand why we are teaching our young women that happiness can only be achieved by relinquishing your humanity and hooking up with irrationally violent men, who want to suck your blood?
When you’re a pre-teen or teenage girl and navigating the terror that is puberty, desperately hoping boys will like you, trying to find a crowd you fit in with and learning to love your mum, then irrationally hate her (and then love her again) – vampires do not help.
These are the eight books that helped me grow up. The eight books that helped me make it from age 6 to 16.
They taught me about friends, they taught me to understand my family, they taught me how to cope with sadness and loss, they taught me the power of acceptance and they taught me to be confident. And they taught me about love.
And none of them are about vampires.
Each of Roald Dahl’s books are stuffed full to the brim with humour and warmth. His imagination is second to none. Matilda is the story of a child genius whose mind is so desperately frustrated by her deadbeat family, that she develops magic powers. The novel illustrates the life-changing power that a good teacher can have on a child and is perfect for a kid of seven or eight – that special time when your classroom teacher is the most important part of your world. Matilda taught me that being good at schoolwork was something to be proud of and that smart girls can do anything. Bam.
The simple act of typing out the title of this novel makes me sigh with pleasure. This classic follows a family of three children who are forced to leave their comfortable life in the city and move to the country with their mother. The Railway Children was probably my first taste of a novel with a whacking great twist in the middle of it. I still remember that out-of-control, heart-racing feeling I got when I solved the mystery of what had happened to the children’s father. The eldest sibling, Roberta is one of the most likeable creatures you will ever come across and is a great role model for firstborn girls.
I spent weeks preparing my year four book-report about Hating Alison Ashley because I was so desperate to do this tremendous tale justice. The book is narrated in the first person by Erika Yurken (‘Yuk’), a rough-and-tumble kid, from a working class family, who longs for a more glamorous existence. When the seemingly perfect new girl, Alison Ashley, shows up at school and steals Yuk’s thunder as top of the class, Yuk’s resentment and jealousy boils over – with hilarious results. As a kid, I related to Yuk’s desperate struggle to fit in and her relentless pursuit of popularity. Klein does a stellar job at teaching her young reader the moral lesson that perfection is just an illusion and that family is the most important part of life.