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When I was young, my mother used to make me read books.

I hated it.

But since my allotment of time spent going outside to play 21 and Kill the Carrier was doled out based upon how much of what I had read I could recite, I forced myself to plod on through to the ugly, bitter end.

The truth was, I really didn’t mind reading so much. My objection, I’m guessing now, was to the fact that I was forced to read.

Sometimes though, when there was absolutely nothing on television, I’d catch myself thumbing through some of the books on my mom’s bookshelf.

I’d never get into any serious reading. I’d just skim through a couple of pages and then pick up another one.

Then, when I was 16, I started reading this book called Tar Baby. Tar Baby was the first book that I had ever started thumbing through that caused me to say to myself, “Wait a minute… lemmie go back to the very beginning of this thing.”

Tar Baby was the book that made me a reader.

The feeling it gave me was a feeling I’ve been chasing in every book I’ve read since.

Tar Baby was my, pardon the corny verbiage, “magic” book, the one that unlocked the power of books for me. The one that made me realize that books could be… magical.

I’ve seen the effect of “magic” books on a couple of close friends.

Of course for them, the “magic” book wasn’t Tar Baby, it was Iceberg Slim’s Pimp: The Story of My Life (GREAT book, btw).

And I’d argue that anyone that isn’t already a reader, is only yet to find his or her “magic” book.

Right now, a big deal is being made about the so-called “achievement gap” between Black boys and other students.

I’m left wondering how much more are Black boys expected to want to learn after stumbling through America’s outrageous glorification of sociopathic slave-owners like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and our convoluted justification for Manifest Destiny.

But I’ll bet Black boys would devour Jay-Z’s new book, Decoded.

Some might even dig Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father, but I’m guessing that maybe 1 out of 10 Black boys actually want to be President, while probably 5 out of 10 want to be rappers.

And who knows, maybe after reading about something that I’m guessing a large percentage of Black boys already have an active interest in, they’d then discover that the reading process itself wasn’t too shabby.

Wouldn’t that be magical?


In Jay-Z’s Decoded book, he explains how Hip-Hop changed the hood for the better