“Books are like seeds, laying dormant, but able to flower in the most unpromising soil.” — Carl Sagan
Through my 8 years & 10 months incarcerated, I have read a plethora of books. So there are MANY that have touched me & impacted me. But it’s 2 that made me more comfortable in “who” I am & what I was interested in. “Cosmos” by Carl Sagan & “Between the World & Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Since the latter gave me confidence & reassurance that it was nothing wrong with me being a voracious reader & inquisitive about EVERYTHING, I will start with it.
Ta-Nehisi eloquently conveyed the inner conflict that exists within a black man submerged into the literary world. How one’s journey reading the greats can make you question not only “Life” itself, but you as a person & your interests. Ta-Nehisi Coates correctly articulated a feeling I had while exploring the literary world, how one could LOVE & revere the works of “Tolstoy,” but also wonder “why” we never hear any praise for writers that look like yourself or been through what u been through?
By time I had read “Between the World & Me,” I had read Kahlil Gibran, Plato, Pythagoras, Fyodor Dostostevky, O.G. Mandingo, & MANY OTHERS who are “praised” in the literary world, but I had also read great books that were simply only regarded as: African-American writers; or Black Literature. I contemplated “why”: Carter G. Woodson, William Chancellor, Ivan Van Sertima, or George G.M. James wasn’t venerated in the literary world?
I knew it wasn’t anything wrong with me reading authors of ANY race, but those questions lingered & Ta-Nehisi Coates was able to articulate that feeling I felt, while the prose is in a “letter” form, to his son. That fact, was something else that resonated with me, because over all the years, ALL the books I had ever received, I mailed home, in an attempt to create my own “Library” for my children, whenever I am released & create some.
As for “Cosmos,” by the time I had read it, I had watched the rendition of his renowned series, recreated by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, & read parts quoted by other authors, but I knew, if I was going to question “What is Life?” & consider the “Universe” in all its vastness–while reading authors like Carlo Rovelli & Neil DeGrasse Tyson, I would HAVE TO read the classic by the man himself!
Carl Sagan took me, not only on a journey through “History”; he also comforted me with the assurance that: I’m not the only one who ponders & considers “What is This? What is Life? What is Consciousness & Intelligence? Are there other life forms on planets other than Earth?”
I felt a renewed sense of “curiosity” reading “Cosmos.” I felt an “Escape” from the prison cell I was in. I felt as if I was on “The Voyager,” passing through the “Milky Way,” encountering pieces of the Solar System that no man has seen in person.
Reading these books throughout the years, have given me a “release” from my current situation & motivated me, exhorted me & inspired me, to continue to be “me.” To keep pursuing the answers to questions, that are only asked by a few & that NO MATTER WHAT, to keep reading!!!
— Chris Y.