What are you reading?
“I just finished Tess of the d’Ubervilles, by Thomas Hardy. It’s about a woman in Britain in the 1800s who is raped and winds up expecting a child. Instead of blaming the man, people blame her and say it’s her fault. So, she has to navigate the world as an unmarried woman with a child and try to get a husband. Her baby dies eventually. She was my favorite character because even with this huge adversity — having her virginity taken, which was a big deal back then — she was strong. She really asserted her belief that she was the victim and still equal to other women.”
Is there a particular scene that struck you?
“Tess marries a man, but when he finds out she isn’t a virgin, he tries to leave her. But he had already told her that he had slept with another woman before he married her. He’s saying he doesn’t consider their marriage valid anymore, and she asks, ‘Am I not equal to you?’”
Tell me about Hardy’s writing style.
“It’s very old-fashioned, and yet very causal in the way the narrator interacts with the reader, sometimes speaking directly to the reader. He’ll ask questions to make the reader think about a situation. It’s one of my favorite parts. People who were reading it in that time period probably would have originally identified with the characters who thought she belonged, in a sense, to the man she’d had a baby with, that he was her real husband. But Hardy helps them process their thoughts.”
Who is your favorite author?
“I mostly read older books. I really love Victor Hugo, who wrote Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. His books deal with outcasts, the people that weren’t commonly talked about. He shows them as human beings instead of just outcasts, people who still try to act like regular human beings despite what are often horrible interactions. For instance, in Les Miserables, you have Jean Valjean, who is a prisoner. Most people would consider him an outcast. He can’t get a job. I also love how much detail he goes into about things like scenery. Most people don’t like that nowadays; they want to go straight from scene to scene. But I do.
What book has been most life-changing for you?
“Surprisingly, The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, sort of changed the way I look at the what we think of as the American Dream. It showed me that things aren’t everything they seem to be; that maybe wealth and success aren’t everything. I remember the end, where Nick starts talking to people after Gatsby’s death. They aren’t really affected by it because they’re in their own little bubbles of success and self-importance, and Nick is outraged by that. Any normal person would be moved, but once you get to a certain level of success, you get self-absorbed.”
Do you talk to people about reading?
“Not so much anymore. At Helix Charter they had a book club, and I used to be in that.”
Do you read any newspapers or magazines?
“No. I read on the internet.”
Name: CAMERON SCOTT | Age: 18 | Occupation: STUDENT AT UCSD | Neighborhood: LA MESA | Where interviewed: CHECKOUT STAND