Reflections of Things I Didn’t Know I Knew

I could play the bumpkin. I could smile like a mooncalf over these pleasures (but this I do already). I could “gosh” and “gee” at what New York has shown me… if it weren’t so simple a thing. It is a very simple thing. I haven’t set foot in Manhattan except for a few parties, and already this place is feeling like home. What has enamored me so?

The Flushing branch of the Queens library. It isn’t that it’s big (it is, but Selby isn’t small either). It isn’t the number of books (there are many, but I’ve seen more in one place). It was that I’ve never seen so many people in a library before. There was a small sea of folk milling about, perusing books, and waiting in line to check out their finds. And this was a slow day, my host told me. And where would two geeks go in such a place but straight to the graphic novels? We sat on the floor thumbing through comic books, talking about the history of the medium, discussing what was good and what I hadn’t yet read when one more small thing captured my attention, or perhaps my heart.

At the end of the row, there sprawled a small Asian boy, close cropped hair and wearing a thick blue and yellow winter coat, intently reading a comic book. Superman, in fact. I couldn’t help but smile, even though there were many things churning in my head. I wondered how that little boy felt about Superman’s straight, white boys-only tales, wondered if he would feel alienated, as I had felt being a young woman reading other comics when I was little– it’s something you can’t discuss as a kid, when you have no fancy words to name it, and the fancy words get tangled even as you get older. I wondered if he would savor the stories, and what he would go on to read. For all the problems of representation in comics (and this is changing as the medium does) there is something of pure joy in reading them.

And you know what? What right have I to speculate about his mind, as he sat there reading? All these thoughts simmering in my academic mind didn’t matter a lick to the little boy sprawled at the end of the row, absorbed in tales of Superman.

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