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May 10, 2014

Sarah Jio: Books That Make People Feel

Posted by emily

Bestselling author Sarah Jio’s latest book, GOODNIGHT JUNE, is about a dissatisfied young woman who finds meaning in letters from her late great-aunt and GOODNIGHT MOON author Margaret Wise Brown. So it’s not surprising that some of Sarah’s fondest childhood memories are of her mother reading to her. It is to her mother that Sarah owes her love of storytelling --- and her ambition to tell stories of her own someday.

I can picture the moment as if it were yesterday. My sister and I, in our pajamas, with wet hair smelling of baby shampoo after a bath, snuggled up beside our mother in the home of my childhood in Silverdale, Washington. I think about that home a lot. There was nothing particularly grand about it. In fact, it was far from grand. But to a child of seven, it was perfection. The wood-burning fireplace my sister and brother and I would warm ourselves beside after a bath. The big backyard and the vegetable garden at the bottom of the hill. The dogwood trees that I climbed. The Slip 'N Slide my dad would set up on rare warm days. I can still smell the fresh-cut grass and feel my face, sticky from Popsicles.

But when I think about that home, and that time in my childhood, the early years, my mind most often returns to the moments of my mother reading to my sister and me. We'd lie in our parents' bed, on either side of our mother, resting our heads on her soft shoulders, and she'd read to us, in her calm, peaceful voice. We'd listen and we'd wonder and dream. Following the lives of the characters in the pages, whether they were Laura Ingalls or Anne Shirley, we'd escape, together, all three of us.

In those moments, I found myself entranced in the stories my mother read, but also in awe of literature, in awe of storytelling and the authors behind the pages I loved so. The stories my mother read inspired me to dream. And I dreamed. Big bold dreams, of becoming an author, of writing books that made people laugh and cry --- books that made people FEEL.

I dedicated my novel, THE LAST CAMELLIA, to my mother, but in so many ways, I owe her every book --- my entire career, perhaps --- because she introduced me to stories, and she inspired me to write them.