Before we all get lost in the hustle and bustle of moving to St Andrews, I want to take a moment to reflect on the past as we get ready for the future. And as we start this new chapter in our life, I’d like to propose a toast – to the books that made us.
To start off, my name is Cate. I am finishing up my gap year as I start my first year here at St Andrews. I hail from sunny California and I spend most of my time reading. I am an extremely sentimental person (as you can probably tell from the theme of the article), so it’s no surprise that the book that “made me” was That was then, this is now by S.E. Hinton. Set in the same universe as The Outsiders (the “hood” of Tulsa, Oklahoma), this coming of age novel focuses on Mark and Bryon, childhood best friends, as they go through the process of growing up. Through a series of events- from dealing with financial hardships to death and loss – Mark and Bryon struggle through irreconcilable differences and growing apart.
I was in fourth grade when my brother had given me the book to read. It was the first time a book had made me stop and think. I remember when I finished it, I had just laid in bed, staring at the ceiling. As a ten year old, things like criticisms on racism and socio-economic status completely went over my head, but the theme of growing up is what really resonated with me. It was the first book that made me think about the future, made me realise that all my actions have consequences, and that life as I know it is changing and always will be. I am not going to lie, the book scared me. And so for the next ten years, I put it on my shelf and ignored it. But the story had always stayed with me.
As I grew up, I started to understand the message more. When I moved schools and effectively grew apart from my childhood friends, Mark and Bryon kept popping into my head. It was a source of comfort, but also of realisation. Bryon’s words that each person is a mixture of their experiences with other people completely hit me in that moment and how over time that alters who we are and our relationships. I was a confused kid, bombarded with all these changes in my life, but this book helped me come to terms with them. That was then, this is now is what made me realise teaching through literature is one of the most effective and lasting forms of learning. Stories have a way of not just teaching facts, but also teaching feelings and emotions like compassion and empathy. It was what made me interested in becoming a writer. (I also learned that S.E. Hinton was only 18 when she received her contract for The Outsiders and I had never been inspired more in my life.)
In the afterword of the novel (when I finally picked up the book to write this article), S.E. Hinton writes,
“The difference in the years between sixteen and twenty are almost as great as the difference in the years between eleven and sixteen. You learn things. Sometimes hard things. You learn that the so-called right thing is sometimes not the right thing. You learn that there will be roads to choose, some you never believed you would travel.”
High school was a million times different than middle school, and I’m sure that college will be a million times different than high school. But we have all come to crossroads, and we have all made our decisions, and now we are here ready to begin our journey at St Andrews.
To the choices we made that led us here, and to the choices we make that lead us from here.
Caterina Therese S. Casalme
Like this article? Interested in telling The Tribe about your own book that made you? In this potential new feature “To The Books That Made Us”, the idea of first year Caterina T. S. Casalme, pieces of literature big and small, academic or not, are discussed in terms of their effects on you. If you’d like to contribute to “To The Books That Made Us” then contact firstname.lastname@example.org.