Helen Schulman

Helen Schulman: "I just remember feeling like I had fallen into heaven"

"I just remember feeling like I had fallen into heaven."

I used to go to the Donnell Library across the  street from the Museum of Modern Art when I was a child and my older sister was taking art classes, and it was a special time between me and my mother.

And i just remember feeling like I'd fall into heaven.

I couldn't believe that there were all those books there and it was one of the first libraries that had soft seats and stuffed animals and all that.

You know, I was a kid who loved books and loved reading, and what was amazing about libraries is that you could get any book that you wanted. My parents bought us books, but it wasn't quite like it is now where people will buy books pretty easily online or go to book stores. We took books out of the library and took them out from school and every week when I would go to the Donnell Library, we'd get books and bring them home and then bring them back, and I loved that.

In the summer, my family has been fortunate  enough to stay, my mother has a house out at Amagansett, Long Island, and there is the most beautiful little library there.

And my son, I was going to say "my little boy," but now he's thirteen so he's not so little. He's dyslexic and yet he is the world's biggest reader, and often he and I will just go there to read and sit next to each other. And you'd think we'd be at the beach, but we're two peas in a pod that way. It's just so quiet there and it's so cool and  it's full books.

You know, it's funny, kids love books. I mean you give them gadgets and all that. Everyone says, oh we're just going to play with their gadgets, but it's been my experience that when you give kids books, they love to read them.

You know, as I mentioned, my son is dyslexic, which meant that reading was hard for him. For a while he was at a school with kids who were dyslexic, and I would come in as a visiting writer. They loved books.  They loved  when people read books to them. It was painful not to be able to read books.

Keeping books from children is a criminal act. I usually, every day, wear this bracelet that the writer Ann Hood gave me, and it says "I read banned books." And on the bracelet are covers of beloved books, like "Alice in Wonderland" and "Huck Finn," which has always been kind of controversial, and "Go Ask Alice," the books that I love... "Annie on My Mind." And  the idea that those books are kept from kids seems uh... just terrible to me. They're literature.

I'm writing a screenplay of my last book. That's what I'm doing next. I just finished adapting a short story that I wrote called "Parents Night" that was two-and-a-half pages and was in Tin House magazine and I turned that into a movie script so I'm a little bit of the script-writing business right now.  

Helen Schulman is the author of the New York Times best-selling novel, This Beautiful Life.  Her previous novels are: A Day at the Beach, P.S., The Revisionist and Out of Time, and the short story collection Not a Free Show.

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Book Title: 

This Beautiful Life

Library Name: 

Donnell Library (New York City)