I am an ordinary African-American woman in her early seventies, of average height, more plump than slim, who has wonderful friends and laughs loud and easily. I have lived in the city and suburb, traveled some, worked hard all of my life and am reasonably healthy.  

My life could have been very different given who I was as a young child. I was painfully sensitive, awkwardly shy, a scared-of-the-dark bedwetter and prone to cry easily. As a teenager I was angry, furtive, bullied at school and frightened. But I was smart and could dance (a definite asset), and early on I discovered a sure way to navigate and eventually overcome all of my quirks, fears and boundaries. I found books! 

As early as elementary school, I discovered that reading could take me as far away from reality as I could possibly imagine, and farther. I became a voracious, greedy, all-consuming reader. I went through books like a family goes through groceries. I stayed away from newspapers and non-fiction, preferring to immerse myself in the lives of fictionalized characters, and to learn from them. Reading enabled me to channel pain and depression, overcome violence and hurt, expand my self-confidence and emerge decades later as a sane, loving and responsible adult. 

Today, I am still that greedy reader, even more so now having access to audiobooks. I continue to read mainly African-American, African, and South American literature; I also read science-fiction, fantasy, mystery, poetry, essays and other non-fiction; autobiographies, historical fiction, cookbooks, self-help manuals and more. Reading has allowed me to think, to analyze, to understand other cultures, and develop an extensive vocabulary, to get into college, to maintain a healthy lifestyle and make a reasonably good living.  

If I could give one piece of advice to anyone desiring success and happiness, or just an escape from their current reality, it would be this: READ! READ! READ! And write – fluently, extensively – for the rest of your life, to save your life. 


Separation from

her first lover left her

strung out




She was four. 

So many words she hadn’t learned 

She didn’t know  




She liked the attention  

he gave her 

the feelings 

she felt. 

I guess 

I think. 

I suppose. 

So when her family  

moved to the suburbs and 

the man next door  

the one called Uncle 

was no longer in her life. 

She grieved. 

Silent and grieving 

She was sent to dancing school. 

Fearful and grieving 

she started kindergarten 

drew pictures  

everyone said were dirty. 

Alone and grieving 

she buried herself  

so deeply in books that 

she was fifteen and fearful 


ashamed and 

longing for love 

before she remembered  


Daphne Carter McKnight 

Join the Conversation


  1. Hi Ms. McKnight:

    I loved books at a young age as well. I enjoyed reading National Geographic, Jet Magazine, and Ebony Magazine. I loved going to the Library and searching for books on all types of subjects. It carries though to this day. When my Mother was carrying me – she worked at the Library in New York. My parents loved music and art. And we went to the Studio Museum in the early days and they had poetry jams. They are very fond memories.

    It reflects today. I self-published a novella called African Venus. This book is based in West Africa, France, The Island of Guadelope and New Orleans. I have only been to New Orleans. Books help you mentally travel and you can research anywhere in the world on-line and through books.

    Thank you for sharing your experience.

  2. Thank for sharing your victory in life over the darkness that brought you into the wonderful light of knowing, seeing, being and caring. It’s so great to have such a very special friend in reading. I know it well.

  3. Daph, it takes a lot of courage to publically share your feelings in the way you have chosen to. Growing up in the same home, I am so sorry I was not aware of, nor was the rest of our family aware of what you were experiencing so that, as our youngest family member, we could have protected you from the next-door monster/demon. I never understood why you always had your head “burried” in a book. It is devastating to know that your joy of reading is the result of childhood trauma. I thank you for introducing me to so many prolific authors and the joy of listening to audiobooks. I am hopeful that your article will be the impetus for parents and guardians to grow closer to and speak with their charges (and/or family members) who may be acting out or finding other ways of escaping their crisis. May God forever bless and keep you. Your one and only sister who loves you dearly, Cynthia

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