I was never your average child reader. When I was young, for some reason, I was a type that was drawn to books that were older to me. Don’t get me wrong, I still read (and enjoyed) various children books such as Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High, and the Babysitters Club. But there was just something about the classics that drew me in. However, for a young child, those books with small print and single-space text, called out to me. But it was intimidating. It was okay for me to hold it in my hand but to actually read it made me feel I wasn’t intelligent enough to read it. That all went away when I first met Jane Austen.
It was January 14, 1996. I noticed that my mom was excited about something that was going to premiere on TV. We only had 2 televisions sets and since my dad was watching one (I don’t remember what he was watching but to a child, it probably was boring), I was going to be stuck watching what my mom was going to watch and to a nine-year old, that is something you didn’t want to hear. It was showtime and my mom turned the channel to A&E and before I knew it, this small nine-year old was immediately enthralled. I never encountered something that captivated me so deeply. The story, the scenery, the music, the clothing, I was in love with it all.
Yes, this was the US premiere of the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice and my first official “meeting” with Jane Austen.
Now it does seem strange that an avid reader’s first encounter with an author would be a TV adaptation but from that moment I was entirely fascinated by Jane Austen. For the next three nights, my mom and I would snuggle in front of the TV to watch the continue adventures of Elizabeth Bennet. When my mom told me that it was based on a book, I made her buy me a copy. She would then in turn read me passages from it, before I went to bed. It would be awhile before I read the entire book on my own. It took time for me to truly understand it but that never deterred me. I just kept reading and reading, fully absorbing Austen’s words. From then on, I would read anything I get my hands on that was about Austen: her novels, her juvenilia, biographies and essays her. I wanted to know more about her because I never had a connection with any other author. Because of her I was able to venture out and start reading the classics I envied.
Austen is more than a romantic author, sometimes I don’t even consider her that type of
author. Austen used her wit, her observation, and humor to entertain the masses with her writing. Yes, people did end up getting married in the end but she was showing what was important during that time. Her novels are a reflection of analytical observation and used humor in her stories as a reason of escape. Austen’s work is the true model of what books do for readers: taking a break from reality. Her social commentary on class and society is unlike any author and truly makes her more than a “romantic”.
To me, Jane Austen has various definitions. She defines nostalgia: Austen offered that true bond and commonality that my mom and I could share. She defines humor: her sarcasm and her wit never makes you grow tired of her writing. She is the definition of a beautiful writer: her words healed when I was depressed, calmed me when I was anxious, brought me more joy when I was happy. She is and always will be my favorite author of all time.
Jane Austen is more than a writer, a humorist, a daughter, a sister, a pop culture icon…she is my best friend and I am so glad I have her in my life.