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WHY READ?

Washington, DC

A window display at C&S Bookstore in Forest Park, Illinois, set the stage for the Big Read panel discussion by local writers on Poe's influence on the mystery genre. Photo courtesy of Oak Park Public Library

Based in Lisle, Illinois, writer Luisa Buehler pens a mystery series featuring amateur sleuth Grace Marsden.  Last fall, as part of Oak Park Public Library's Big Read, Buehler joined three fellow mystery writers for a (costumed!) panel on the influence of Poe on their writing. Here she shares how a childhood move to the Chicagoland suburbs initiated her into the mysteriesof the community library.

I didn't know libraries existed outside of the school building until I was ten years old.

My early years on the west side of Chicago lacked books and reading.  My father worked in a factory. My mother came to America from Italy in the late forties; she was a war bride.  She spoke no English which was okay in an Italian neighborhood and an Italian household where Nonna Santa (my grandmother) spoke only Italian as well.  When I came along I spoke Italian and gradually learned English from my older brother who went to school. My father read the newspaper all the way through (and you didn't mess with it and get the pages out of order).

Nonna Santa was a wonderful storyteller, but she wove her enchantment only if you were sick and restricted to bed.  To this day I don't know why I didn't succumb to hypochondria.

What change catapulted me into the joy of reading?  We moved to the melting pot of suburbia and lived on a street with the Kileys, the Gundersons, the Ermisches, the Walshes, the Buczaks, and more names that didn't end in vowels!  In the fifties you wanted to fit in, so my dad laid down the law.  We were to speak only English to our mother. My brother had to change his DA hairstyle, and I had to forego my little gold hoop earrings unless we were going to visit relatives.

It was the summer of my tenth year that I hopped on my Schwinn and followed Sharon Buczak to the local library.  In the basement of the Police Department/City Hall I found Nancy Drew.  Even now, fifty years later, I feel a catch in my breath when I think of the moment I discovered the portal to freedom and imagination.

Take a look at the Big Read calendar to find a Big Read near you!

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