Rewriting my Literacy Narrative

As a child, I was engrossed in comics. Before smartphones, tablets, and laptops, I could always be found sitting at the dining table reading some comic or the other. There were three that I distinctly remember, Tinkle, Amar Chitra Katha, and Asterix and Obelix. Tinkle was an Indian comic company that compiled comic strips by famous Indian cartoonists and published them in volumes. The comics incorporated Indian politics, culture, and stories of morality. Next was Amar Chitra Katha, another Indian company that published graphic novels of prominent Indians and mythological characters in the Hindu religion. The Amar Chitra Katha comics were especially alluring because they allowed me to connect with my Indian heritage at a very young age. The third was Asterix and Obelix. It followed the adventures of two Gauls whose access to superhuman strength allowed them to hold out against the Roman invaders while also going on whacky adventures.

All three of these comic series had one thing in common, I wanted to read them.

One day during the summer of 2008, while I was sitting at the dining table reading an “Amar Chitra Katha” book, my dad approached me with a serious look in his eyes. When he arrived, he snatched the comic book out of my hands and replaced it with a large hardcover book that had the words Tin Tin Flight 714 in bold black font at the top. I looked up at him and he looked down at me and pointed to it with a stern look in his eyes. I grudgingly opened the cover and took a look at the first few panels.

I spent 30 minutes on the first page.

The incorporation of body language, the implied tone and awkwardness of certain characters, and an advanced vocabulary, to which I was not accustomed to, made progressing through the story extremely frustrating. This was the complete opposite of what I had been reading up to this point in my life, and it showed.

I sat there rereading the first page over and over again, but little did I know how significant a moment this would.  

During my Freshman and Sophomore years of high school, I was an extremely poor writer. It was not so much that I could not write well as much as it was my inability to analyze and understand advanced texts. My middle school had prepared me poorly for the advanced texts of high school and I struggled to try to read books like To Kill a Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies. I would get stuck on new words, and literary ideas like ‘theme’ and ‘juxtaposition’ were thrown around as if we had been accustomed to them for years. The point I make is that my difficulties analyzing novel pieces of literature began that summer, a problem that would stick with me for 9 years.

The turning point in high school was understanding the significance of that moment during the summertime. Today, Tin Tin is my favorite comic book series trumping Tinkle, Amar Chitra Katha, and Asterix and Obelix.

But how? Had I not hated it and at one point even thrown it against my living room wall?

The answer was in perspective. I had begun reading Tin Tin with the mindset that I did not want to continue reading. Any minor setback would have compounded on itself, and before I knew it I was stuck and frustrated and feeling, quite frankly, dumb.

The next day when I picked the Tin Tin comic up again, I brought with me a more accepting perspective. Instantly I began relating to characters, laughing at the slapstick comedy of the Thompson and Thomson twins, and overall enjoying the book.

It was this revelation during my junior year that helped me understand the key to my literary success. I stopped reading the assigned texts with the mindset to finish it because it was homework, rather I read them for enjoyment. I experienced the same thing as all those years ago and I saw an instant improvement in my writing abilities. What happened with Tin Tin was now happening with The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, and Night.

I have used this technique in school texts ever since and I continuously see the same successful results. It is something I tell anyone who faces the same struggles I did. Initially, they’ll roll their eyes at me but over time, they realize how helpful a change in mindset is. And it is not a tall task either. As long as you stick through with it and don’t let your mind fall down the rabbit hole of boredom, anger, and frustration, you will be fine.