What’s on Your Shelf? A Reading Interview with Joelle Sanphy

Joelle's shelfie.

Joelle’s “Shelfie”

Please welcome Renaissance-woman, Substitute Teacher, and Library Assistant, Joelle Sanphy ’08 to the blog this week. (Interested in checking out a book Joelle mentions here? Linked titles will take you to the MDA Library Catalog record.)

Do you enjoy reading? Why or why not?

Do I? Actually, I hated reading when I was in middle school because I was an annoyingly slow reader (I still am). Then I started to read books that pulled at my heart strings and the pace of my reading didn’t seem to matter any more. When I was a freshman at GS my English teacher, Kathy Rogers, made reading a process of discovery. Analyzing the nuances within the text was like uncovering ancient artifacts. What I’ve learned over time is that picking up a book and engaging with it forces us to consider different perspectives on life. It is excruciatingly difficult to challenge our personal beliefs but in order to promote social change and a more equitable society, we must challenge ourselves.

Do you prefer books, books on tape, e-reader books? Where do you get your reading materials?

Books all the way. And when I have a book in hand, a pencil is not far behind. It’s o.k., in fact it’s even encouraged, to write in books…as long as you own the book. Write in the margin. Circle words you don’t know. Underline what you believe is important. Engage with the text.

What kind of reader were you when you were in high school?

Towards the end of my high school years I became a voracious reader. It took me a few years to become independent. At first I was satisfied with reading the assigned work for class during the school year and in the summer. Really, I just needed to uncover my niche. Often times I found an author during the school year who interested me and in the summer I would read another book from the author’s collection…then another. After I read The House of the Spirits, I spent the summer reading Allende’s novels. I couldn’t get enough magical realism.

Has your pleasure/displeasure for reading ever changed? What/who was responsible for that change?

Past teachers and professors have shaped my interests. I used to go to office hours just to have conversations with professors and pick their brains. Guess what? Teachers actually enjoy when students want to have intellectual conversations outside of the classroom. Learning is a continual process which only occurs through engagement. We learn from each other. We inspire each other. We challenge each other.

What are you reading right now?

I’m currently reading Not That Kind of Girl, by Lena Dunham, and Dead Women Talking: Figures of Injustice in American Literature. I’ll read anywhere and anytime. But If I can find a secluded spot outside, I’ll be content for hours. Some Keats, some birds chirping, and some warm spring sun.

Who are your favorite writers?

Allende. Coleridge. Du Bois. Hardy. Hurston. Keats. Morrison. Salinger. Shakespeare. Shelley. Thoreau. Wright.

What was the last truly great book you read?

In The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois presents the notion of double consciousness. This idea has been a lens throughout my studies and has greatly impacted my experiences. Though The Souls of Black Folk may not be the last truly great book I have read, it is the most fundamental work I have read thus far.

Are you a fiction or a non-fiction person?What is your favorite lit genre? Any guilty pleasures?

Since I am extremely indecisive by nature I do not have a favorite genre but I do have a tendency to read about gender and race. I can also share with you one of my favorite hobbies which is to read a novel and then watch the film adaptation so I can be overly critical and spend hours discussing differences.

What book had the greatest impact or influence on you?

In sixth grade I read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I can still recite “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost because Ponyboy recites the poem to Johnny. In fact, The Outsiders influenced me so much I wanted to name my first child Ponyboy until my friends said they would disown me. Adolescents is a difficult time in our development. The theme of isolation was relatable for me. I felt closer to the Greasers then some of my own classmates. When I go to flea markets and book sales I look for old editions of the book. It’s a timeless coming-of-age novel that will always have a place in my heart.

What book did you feel you were supposed to like and didn’t? What was the last book you didn’t finish?

I’ve picked up Wuthering Heights far too many times. I love me some Bronte sisters but I guess I prefer a mad woman in the attic…

What book might we be surprised to find on your shelves?

I have a signed copy of Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. It’s my sole prized possession. I’m thinking about getting it insured.

What do you plan to read next?

I’m going to reread Far From the Madding Crowd. Thomas Hardy may not be everyone’s cup of tea but the character of Gabriel Oak has always intrigued me. If nineteenth century English novels don’t sound like fun, I don’t know what fun is. Maybe you would prefer to see the movie adaptation that is due out in May. But please do me one favor, read the novel first. Then go to the movie theater and pay a bajillion dollars for a large popcorn. When you leave the theater analyze which piece you preferred. Did the movie adaptation do the novel justice?

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