In 8th grade, I enjoyed dressing up as Aphrodite for a school project. My classmates and I were each given a particular Greek deity to study. We developed our costumes, what we would say about ourselves, what people believed about us, and more. As a young teenager during the purity movement, I think I felt freedom in being this goddess of love. Her feminine traits were valued and her sensuality was essential to her strengths. Those who worshiped her didn’t see her as promiscuous, trashy, dirty, a spent rose, but as powerful and skilled. Some even felt she was a warrior. Aphrodite was appreciated for many of the things I was being taught to suppress. By this time in my life, I didn’t look like I was in junior high. I could easily have passed for a young woman. My hips were already widening and I remember being asked to wear a t-shirt over my swimsuit at youth events when other girls were not. My body was trouble, at least that’s what I perceived based on the actions of those around me. Representation matters. It really, really does. I looked like Aphrodite. Playing her for that project gave me some of my first tastes of the therapy that is acting. In that project, I could be the things I liked about myself without shame. There is no reason not to feel pretty in your own skin, unless someone has given you reason to believe there is something inherently wrong with your body. Aphrodite wasn’t ashamed and she was adored for all the things I was being asked to conceal. She was a goddess who looked like me and seeing myself in her was liberating.
When The Lightning Thief was released in 2005, my interest was piqued. Only a couple of chapters in, I was hooked. Rick Riordan wrote about ADHD and learning disabilities like they were the superpowers they are and I was thrilled. I remembered feeling judged for my body and how it looked and worked and how freeing Aphrodite was for me. Being gifted came with its ridicule too. A lot of people just didn’t know what to do with a precocious person like me. I was young, brilliant, wanted to change the world, and didn’t understand why everyone else couldn’t see what I saw. Riordan gave me Athena, and I was represented again. Wisdom and intelligence are compelling . Love and passion are too. I was powerful. Here was the beginning of a whole series that I could share with students to uplift them, to give them representation, to make them feel needed and capable. Plus, the books were fun, filled with adventure and excitement. I dutifully read the entire Percy Jackson series. When Riordan continued with the Heroes of Olympus series, I read all of them too. Riordan himself recognized something was missing and he used the success of his books to provide a platform for further representation. There is more than just Greek and Roman mythology. After tackling some Norse mythology and some Egyptian, Riordan didn’t give up. He found other authors to write the stories that weren’t his to share, but unbelievably imperative. His Rick Riordan Presents imprint showcases myths and legends from all across the globe. We all need to see people who look like us. We need to see them empowered and emboldened, alive, and irreplaceable. We need to be told that we are beautiful and strong, that there is nothing to cover up, nothing to hide.
Athens-Clarke County is widely known in Georgia without actually being known. The University of Georgia is in this county, and it usually gets all the attention. Especially now, aftering winning the biggest college football game of 2021, UGA is all over the news. What most people don’t realize is that this county is highly impoverished. More than 30% of its residents live in poverty. There is a lot of money coming into the university itself, but that doesn’t typically translate into finances for the county itself. When a teacher realized that a student was sad because summer meant the school library would close, she started planning and coordinating. Years later, the program she developed, Books for Keeps, is still getting books to kids in need, in Athens-Clarke County and beyond. I’m aware I keep plucking your heart strings when I post about books, but I’m going to keep doing it. People need books and I have no hesitation in asking for book donations. As an Amazon associate, I do earn from qualified purchases, and I assure you that I appreciate the coffee change. More importantly, I appreciate the opportunity to bring awareness to areas of need. I love books, and I’ve always loved them. My childhood was filled with books, and I’ve continued that tradition with my kids. I want this for other families too. I’m not able to provide books to all of the various causes I’ve shared, but maybe together we can. The more blog entries that are shared, the more people learn about these different book charities, the more books end up in the hands of people of all ages.
If you know of book charities that I don’t know of yet, please share them with me. I’ll write about them, attach a book recommendation or two, and together, we can bring some adventure and escape during a time of worry and strife.