Growing up in Sam Fife’s Move of God cult, reading material on the Delta Junction, Alaska, compound was very censored. Magazines had pages, pictures and sections removed, all deemed by the cult leaders to be “bad for our minds.”
One girl managed to sneak in The Chronicles of Narnia, The Borrowers and Stuart Little, which she let me borrow, quickly read and give back to her with the promise I wouldn’t tell anyone she had them.
One of my cherished possessions was a box set of The Little House On the Prairie series which I found in the clothing bank, a community room where we could rummage through all the personal belongings other people gave over to the cult. I read and re-read those books until the pages were falling out.
In my post-cult teenage life, at the age of fourteen, one of my first introductions to television would be Little House On the Prairie series starring Melissa Gilbert. I would weep hysterically when Mary went blind.
These books were a comfort to me in the cult. So much about Laura’s life was familiar; the isolation, the hard work, the struggles of growing up in a primitive and patriarchal world.
I received a sweet random act of kindness the other evening when my brother stopped by to give me a “never been used” color version set of the Little House on the Prairie series he’d found. It warmed me to hold these books in my hands again. He is always thoughtful with gifts.
I was momentarily swept back to how often I fell into books, reading them over and over. Watership Down, the tales of Laura Wilder and the many pieces of literature that got me through, let me escape the trauma and somehow made me feel less alone.
Books are treasures. They are a place where many of us kids jumped to escape the traumatic surroundings we so desperately hoped to one day be brave enough to run from. We must preserve them and encourage children to read, taking a break away from technology.