Summers in Riyadh were not very eventful. We lived in a gated 2-storey building with its own pool, so really all I could do was swim a few hours a day. As for the rest of the day, to avoid the boredom, I would read.
I would read. That sounds so cool and sophisticated, no? But I didn’t read like that. Nope.
My father had a 1973 edition of the Merriam Webster dictionary. I read that. I would start at the preface and read it, word by word, page by page, to the end of the appendices. Every summer for 4 summers.
Then we moved to Jordan. I started Grade 10.
It was easy to pick on me: Everyone knew everyone since they were kids. I was new, Lebanese, spoke English, and had all the vocabulary. And I didn’t feel the need to prove my manhood by fighting.
After the first few weeks, I learned that I cannot escape the mockery in class but I could avoid the playground bullying by hiding in the library. So I did. I went to the library for both recesses. Each was 20 minutes long, so I would have 40 minutes a day to myself.
And since I was in the library, I might as well read. So I started with The Encyclopedia Britannica, letter A. By the time we left Jordan two years later, I had read my way through to letter N.
Looking back, I can confidently say I’ve not been an honest reader. I hid behind the books. I used them to protect me.