Starting a New Chapter

american-university-campus My first review here at AAR was published May 17, 2007 — almost exactly four years ago. When I first started reviewing here, I was finishing up my senior year in high school. My first package of books coincided very closely with my AP tests — what a dilemma! Now, four years and 200 reviews later, is another landmark in my personal life: on Sunday, I graduated cum laude from American University with a degree in International Studies.

Saying that I have a degree in something makes it sound like I know a lot more than I feel that I do. (My roommate assures me that I do, in fact, know more about international studies than the average person – an endorsement of my school if there ever was one.) I’m still not entirely sure what I want to do with myself. I am lucky enough to have plans for the next year, working with the homeless through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. But after that… who knows?

Romance novels have been constant companions throughout college. I remember waiting for a New Student Orientation session to start, reading Dockside by Susan Wiggs for review, and being delighted when the heroine’s daughter was attending American University. I’ve brought books with me everywhere. There’s always been a book in my bag and a box or shelf or drawer of books in my bedroom, in the six different places I’ve lived these past four years. It has certainly given me a different perspective, both as a college student that reads romance novels and a romance novel reader that is a college student. I read more than my classmates and friends. (Well, I read for pleasure more than they.) They have been the subject of papers and essays and projects, and have inspired them, despite some lingering academic prejudice. I once had a conversation with a literature professor in which she asked me, “But aren’t romance novels just about women finding a man to provide for them?”

I’m also younger than the average reader and heroine. In some ways, this puts me at a disadvantage; I’ve never held a full-time job, for goodness sake — though this will soon change. In the grand scheme of Major Life Events, I’m on the early end of the spectrum, not having been married, had children, lived by myself, or even been in a serious long-term relationship. Sometimes I wonder if that affects how I experience the novels. Age is something I think about fairly often; at my current part-time job, the majority of my coworkers are at least 70 years old, some of them in their nineties. I was blown away when I realized that my beloved coworker Jennie was nearly seventy years old when I was born.

The breadth of experiences in a person’s life is not always defined by age, but it certainly plays a part, and I’ve frequently wondered about how that influences both reading and writing. Do I see heroines differently? Is my reading experience different than that of someone my mother’s age? I may cringe when a socially tone deaf writer puts a fanny pack on a contemporary heroine in 2011, but this isn’t something limited to the young. I know of several seventy-year-olds who would be just as sartorially offended as my peers in their early twenties. Age is a factor, but it’s not the only factor. I’m young, but curious and well-traveled, and have friends who have lived very different lives than my own. In fact, sometimes the life experiences of friends have been more influential and eye-opening than my own.

College has been pretty good to me. I made some truly wonderful lifelong friends. I got to travel. I struggled personally, particularly with being diagnosed with trichotillomania, but am graduating on a high note. I’ve had my share of drunken mishaps and poor judgment calls, but not nearly as many as most. Through it all, I’ve had romance novels by my side. It was during these college years that I really began to understand the genre and its intricacies, and yet I have much more to learn, many more books to read, and a lot more to write. Now, at least, I don’t have to worry about homework.

– Jane Granville

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18 Responses to “Starting a New Chapter”

  1. DabneyAAR says:

    As Calvin said to Hobbes in the last strip of my favorite comic ever:

    “It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy…Let’s go exploring!”

  2. lauren says:

    Life is a journey not a destination

    I do not know who quoted this originally but its a pretty good lesson to live life by…

  3. Judy says:

    I can truthfully say that throughout life experiences one is forever starting a new chapter, whether through a move/transfer, a birth or death (to name a few. With laughter and tears we journey on.
    So, here’s to a new chapter in your life Jane, may you find it exciting and fulfilling.

  4. LinnieGayl says:

    What a lovely post, Jane. I hope your new chapter brings you much joy, learning, and satisfaction.

  5. LeeB. says:

    Congratulations on graduating Jane and have a great time with your post-college life.

  6. Congratulations, Jane. It’s a great chapter to be starting. Enjoy every moment of it. You’re right that it is not only age that defines the breadth of a person’s experience, but possibly age helps to give it depth or perspective?
    And about the fanny pack – I think that must be what we call a bum bag down here. I have to admit that I find one very useful for dog training. Easier than fishing liver treats out of my pockets and stops my jackets smelling of them – which would be even more sartorially offensive, if attractive to my dogs!

  7. Diana says:

    Good for you, Jane. I admire your work ethic in doing so well in school while reviewing over 200 books for AAR. I’m sure you’ll do just fine out there in Real Life. :)

  8. Tacilija says:

    Congratulations, Jane! Life is what you make of it and I’m sure you will do great! ;-)

  9. AARPat says:

    Hurray for you, Jane! Just remember that change is the constant in life, and go with the flow. You’ll be a lot happier than those who fret over changes.

    As for whether your age enters in to how you perceive a book: Absolutely! I read Jane Eyre the first time at 16. I’ve reread it periodically throughout my life and find a new message and new ideas each time. I’m now over 60, and my daughter (at 35) and I were talking about the book this past weekend. As we talked, I remembered thinking some of the things she was noticing now in the book.

    I started to realize that rereading makes us reprocess the book, making places we didn’t understand or barely understood more meaningful, and letting us gloss over parts that no longer have any great meaning to us.

    For reviewers, this means each of us brings a perspective to share with others, making what we write about the books only a glimpse of what it means in totality. Hopefully, that glimpse is enough to encourage (or discourage) others from reading the book.

    I hope you’re staying with AAR and reviewing as you enter this next phase in your life! You’re a valuable addition here.

  10. DJ says:

    Congratulations!

  11. Susan/DC says:

    Good for you! I wish you all the best in your future endeavors — it certainly seems as if you’ve built a good foundation. Wherever your future may take you, may it be filled with good books.

  12. Jane AAR says:

    Thank you, all, for the well wishes!

  13. socalgal51 says:

    Jane: Congratulations on all of your accomplishments. One of the joys of life is sharing and the sharing of your thoughts has provided us additional insights and perspectives. Remember that attitude is the master key to life’s little locks and with your attitude and work ethic, you are well on your way to opening the doors to success – however you choose to define it. Best wishes and hooray for you!

  14. Kathy B says:

    Jane, wishing you the best of everything. You’ve been one of my favorite reviewers so I hope you continue with AAR!!

  15. Barbie says:

    Well I am a lot like you . I a romance reader that is currently enrolled in college. I find that yes I see the situation, heroine , hero alot differently because of my situation. I am currently in the transition from a community college to state college and I find that reading or listening to romances is a good way to relax. I also find that I see the world in different point of view when I read romances. For example, I have trouble with my weight as a latina. I was listening to ” Bet Me by jennifer cruise” in the part where Cal tells Min that there are some women meant to be curvy or have some weight that part really sticks with me. It sticks with because if right guy happens to come along for me , I already feel in my heart he will love me warts, fat and all my flaws.

    Sorry to get off topic. But i enjoy reading romances and my life experience is like yours limited . I dont mind that because it is a matter of finding your own happiness in life with a sane mind and having that ” tingle” or ” feeling” or what ever it is of rightness.
    Well good luck continue marching to your own drum .

  16. MarySkl says:

    As AARPat said, age and experience DO color how you perceive a book. Which is one of the reasons why I love to re-read all of the time. Even though the book may be an old friend, there is always something new to discover. “For every time there is a season.” ;0)

    I also love discussing books with my 19 & 25 year old daughters. Sometimes they will have a perspective or interpretation that I have never thought about or considered. No matter what our age, our reading is still colored by our own personal experiences and knowledge and the “older” readers can still learn from the younger ones.

    Congratulations on your degree and may you go forth and conquer!

  17. Ann Stephens says:

    Congratulations on your accomplishments, Jane! The world is full of wonders, risk, possibilities and opportunities — may you experience many of them.

  18. Julie says:

    Congratulations! I really admire your ability to go to college, get good grades, have a social life, AND find time to read romance! As a college student myself, I’ve found that reading for pleasure often goes by the wayside (every school break I find myself devouring one or two romances a day, just trying to catch up!)

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