I was in no danger of growing up illiterate in Appalachia. My parents taught me to love books before I could read. There were always books in the house, from the bookshelves in the family room filled with titles like Love Story and Run, Rabbit and Einstein to the copy of One Fish Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish in my room.
My mother is a fast reader, the sort of person who is always looking for a new book because she just finished the previous one. She read me picture books when I was little, then when I was slightly older, she read to me from a series of Bible story books. Unlike some of my classmates, who would first encounter reading in school and come to see it as a chore, I saw reading as a good time.
It’s no surprise I ended up becoming an English teacher. Not only did my parents instill a love of reading at an early age, but I’m descended from a whole bunch of teachers. Aunt Bama got her grade 1 teaching certificate, the highest grade, in the 1920s. My great-grandfather J.M. Feltner traveled the mountains teaching from a McGuffey's Reader; my grandfather Leighton was a school principal, while my grandmother Mary Elizabeth taught Home Economics; my mother taught social studies, and my father was a junior high and high school librarian.
Everyone expected me to become a teacher, but I resisted it. When I majored in English people always asked, “What are you going to do with that, teach?” And I said no. And I had various jobs, and I worked in a bookstore for six years, and that, you know, related to my English degree, but still it wasn't quite enough. Eventually I grew tired of fighting it. I gave in and accepted my destiny.