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Interview with Gracia Laursen

Laursen, Gracia
Maurer, Darlene
Date of Interview: 
Stories and storytellers
Gracia Larsen talks about reading.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Darlene Maurer interviewed Charlotte, NC residents to collect various stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
DM (Darlene Maurer): This is an interview with Darlene Maurer and Gracia Laursen and, what I'd like to know is, what stories or books you remember reading as a child.
GL (Gracia Laursen): I grew up in a household full of books. And one of the benefits of having the mother I had was that she was a third grade teacher. So needless to say we had the opportunities to read and reading was encouraged. Um, and I read the typical young books that young children read. But the ones that stand out the most, I loved Pippi Longstocking. And Pippi Longstocking was a red haired, freckled, little girl who was so adventurous. And she did things when she wanted, how she wanted. Um, and she really didn't have a mommy and daddy around, and I kind of liked that idea. And she had no routine. Um, and I liked that idea too 'cause we lived in a house it was a lot of routines, um, and a lot of systems in place. And she could sleep with her head at the bottom of the bed. And I just can remember thinking that is coolest thing to sleep any way you want. So Pippi-, I lived out my adventures through Pippi as a young child. Um, she was just who I really wanted to be but wasn't given the opportunity because you know I had a mommy and a daddy. As I got a little older in fifth and sixth grade, um, the author that I just loved and I read all of her books, was Louisa May Alcott. And I was first impressed because she wrote about girls and sisters and I had two older sisters so it was just very interesting to me and also that she was a woman. Um, there weren't a lot of women authors that I was introduced to back then. And so, um, she just became an idol of mine. And I loved her period. The period that she wrote in. Um, it was very different than the sixties needless to say and I thought this would be fun to live back then. Um, and so she was a favorite in sixth grade. I was also given the opportunity of having a very, um, wonderful sixth grade teacher. And um, a book that he recommended and that we read was, um, The Little Prince. And it was supposed to be this big philosophical book. I mean not that it's long, but it was supposed to be very philosophical and I couldn't get any of it. And it was so interesting for him to read it in class and talk about what the snake meant or what whatever meant and the symbolism, um, behind the writing and that was like the first book that I read that wasn't concrete, that you really had to think about. Um, and that was discussed. And people had different opinions. And it was just very fascinating to me. Um, and had a, an impact on my life. Because I view life, um, to some part b-, by the way The Little Prince was written. Um, another book that I really enjoyed was The Giving Tree. And I remember reading it in my teenage maybe seventh, eighth grade. And I thought it was so nice how simple it was written. And it was about nature. But it was about giving. And um, giving with the heart that gratitude did not come back. You know this tree gave and gave and gave. Um, and it was just a very simple but very profound story, um, that I thoroughly enjoyed. And that, um, I have traveled a lot in my life and I haven't kept a lot of books but that's one that I've kept and reread. And um, enjoyed through out my lifetime.
DM: Hmm, that's neat. It sound like, uh, you've had different books at different periods of time in your life. Like from a child, and, and um, then through your sixth grade teacher and how you really learned different things from the different periods of time in your life.
GL: And has gone and had gone back and read it and gotten different things. I can remember underlining in yellow you know, things that just spoke to me. And going back a year later, five years later or whatever and thinking boy that says a lot about me at that time in my life. It's not something I would have necessarily had the impact, um, on me five years later of whatever. But literature, books, the written word, has always been very meaningful for me. We didn't have a lot of music in our house or other things. Um, so books were a great recreation. And it, both parents read a lot. I can remember my dad sitting down and reading The Fortune and Scientific American and a really heavy mathematical kind of engineering kinds of things. Um-.
DM: Is that what he did for a living?
GL: Yeah, he was a nuclear physicist.
DM: Oh. OK.
GL: So, um, so he was always reading, my mom was always reading. So it was like something that was really encouraged.
DM: Um-hmm. So, you think that made a difference then in your love for reading?
GL: I think it made a big, big difference that, um, it was a role model to us. They didn't get enjoyment, this isn't something you have to do for school or, um, and I can remember books in my teenage years. I can remember two that were just forbidden that you know, you kind of had to read underneath the sheet, with the flashlight. [Laugh] And I can remember it was Peyton Place and [laugh] it was Boys and Girls Together.
DM: Boy have times changed. [Laugh]
GL: Yeah, no. Well, Boys and Girls Together was pretty darn racy.
DM: Was it? I didn't know about that one.
GL: Yeah, it was a little bit about everything. It was a little bit of everything and none of it in my realm of living so it was very // interesting. Um-. //
DM: // Mm-hum. // That's neat. That's interesting about your, what you remember about your sixth grade teacher and how that was the, um, a kind of turning point it sounds like and, um, reading in a different way and reading for more critical thinking or reading in more of an abstract way instead of a concrete way. That's kind of neat.
GL: And it could have been that my earlier teachers did that too but I knew that Mr. Shafer, my sixth grade teacher, really, really liked me
DM: Um-hum.
GL: You know, and he really nurtured me and encouraged me and was very affirming to me so I was probably, um, easily influenced by him and also more readily willing to listen and to be a part of than, you know, my earlier teachers.
DM: That's great. That's great to have special teachers along the way that we remember // years later. //
GL: // Yeah. // Because I haven't had many. And that, you know, that is one I certainly did. And, and both my parents, um, read really technical kind of books and things so it was ( ) that other people encouraged me to read books that, um, we light and easy and fun. Um, in my early years, until I was probably in high school, I would wrote mostly fiction, I mean I read mostly fiction as opposed to non-fiction.
DM: Great. And where did you grow up?
GL: In Albuquerque, New Mexico.
DM: OK. Great.
GL: And it's interesting because there's a lot of great non-fictional writers out there now dealing with the Navahos and Indians and everything and we didn't have that necessarily back when I was living there until I was 22 and it's nice now to read all of those authors. And to experience, um, in a small way, um, what they're writing about.
DM: That's great. Thank you so much for sharing with us today.
GL: It's been // my pleasure. //
DM: // Thank you. //
GL: And I wish you luck on this project.
DM: Thank you.