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May 8, 2016

Beatriz Williams on Getting Away With Reading Rebellion After Dark

Posted by emily

Before she was a New York Times bestselling author, Beatriz Williams was a rule-abiding kid with nary a rebellious bone in her body. But the one rule she broke --- and was somehow able to get away with under her mother’s careful watch --- was reading a book after bedtime. In our final Mother’s Day Author Blog entry, Beatriz considers her mother’s uncharacteristic leniency in that instance and why she extends the same clemency to her own kids. And be sure to check out her latest book, A CERTAIN AGE, when it releases on June 28th.

I still remember the book: THE REAL MOTHER GOOSE, on the cover of which an affable witch appeared to be kidnapping a baby atop the back of an enormous white goose. I must have found this idea intriguing instead of upsetting, because I crept out of the darkened room I shared with my sister and into the lighted hallway in order to read it. And since I was the kind of kid who avoided trouble the way other kids avoided lima beans (which, by the way, I actually liked --- I was that perversely good), I must have really, really wanted to read that book.

Of course, when my mother opened the door of her own bedroom and found me sitting there in the hallway, I knew I was a goner. In our little house, bedtimes were enforced with all the strictness of a religious order observing prayers, and not only had I violated this rule, I had resorted to subterfuge. I can still remember the horror of that door opening, and the look on my mother’s face, and the color of her nightgown. I couldn’t have been more than four years old.

But it was the strangest thing. My mother’s expression went from shock to amusement; instead of punishing me, she laughed and sent me back to bed. I guess she just knew the whole thing was her own fault. She’d set about teaching me and my sister to read when I was hardly able to walk, and when you instill a worship of words so early, you can’t blame your acolytes for their devotion.

Now, of course, I have children of my own, and I see that episode of nocturnal disobedience from my mother’s point of view. How delighted she must have been to catch me reading at night, even when I should have been sleeping. How awed to realize what courage it had cost me to stake out a place of my own on the hallway floor. From time to time, I catch a light beneath the door of a kid’s room, at an hour when no light should shine; if it’s not a school night, I let it be. Books are more important than sleep. I learned that from my mother when I was four years old.