Part of the fun of working in a bookstore is that we get advance copies of books to read. Another great thing is that we have author events. I feel like I hit the jackpot because the author of one of the advance copies I am reading, a memoir titled Lab Girl, is coming to Content Bookstore this Friday. Yep, Hope Jahren, an acclaimed scientist with Minnesota roots who now lives in Hawaii, will be here on Friday, April 22nd at 6:30 p.m. and I’ll get to meet her. You can, too! And while I’m excited to have an advance copy of the book to read, I’m going to buy myself a real live hardcover of Lab Girl and have Hope sign it.
Even though I haven’t quite finished Lab Girl I feel like I can heartily recommend the book because Jahren had me hooked before I finished the prologue.
You see, on the first page of the prologue, Jahren invited me to look out the window. To notice the natural world. By page two she had me thinking back to when I was a little girl. Of how I would sit up in the crook of the maple tree in my backyard and look at the leaves, the bark, the seed pods. Of how I would take dental tools from my Dad’s workshop and carefully dissect the leaves and the seed pods and examine them. I was doing experiments. And even though there was no formal process to what I was doing or actual data gathered, I felt important when I was up in that tree, and I dreamed of being a scientist who made great discoveries.
Fast forward 35 years to the present day. I am a writer and a part-time bookseller. I have not gone into any field related to science yet I am a mom to two children who enjoy science and the natural world. My 13 year-old son, Ryan, reads book after book about snakes and reptiles. On a recent vacation we could not find him anywhere, then discovered him sitting still as stone under a tree watching a lizard shed its skin. Rose, my 16 year-old daughter, talks with great excitement about black holes and how the brain works. She was in a neuroscience club, competed in a state-wide “Brain Bee,” and is planning to study science in college.
“Where on earth are my kids getting their interest in science?” I’ve wondered over the years. I am not a science-minded person I’ve told myself and have, sadly, convinced myself that Rose and Ryan’s science genes and interests are coming from my husband’s side of the family alone. From their grandfather who invented an x-ray dose comparator and worked in a hospital laboratory, from their father, who studied math and quantum mechanics in college, and actually understands what my kids are talking about when they get into conversations about infinity, moles and Avogadro’s number.
But here’s the thing – reading Lab Girl reminded me that I am a science person after all. Reading Lab Girl reminded me that MY genes and MY love of the natural world are major contributors to the fact that my kids love science. Jahren reminded me that I once sat in a tree and did experiments. That I have always felt connected to the natural world. That I’m most at home walking out in a field. That I have a brain that loves to think and explore and I’m curious about how things work and why. Lab Girl reminded me that I grew up with a dad who invented things in his garage and shop and, at his side, I learned how to build and fix things. That I have a mom who taught me how to be curious by doing mini-experiments – like soaking a sugar cube in lemon extract then light it on fire and see what happens or make an incubator out of a styrofoam cooler and proceed to incubating batch after batch of eggs in the basement of our suburban home.
Yes, I’m a writer, bookseller and mom – but Lab Girl reminded me I’m also a science-minded person who looked at the world with wonder as I grew up and continue to look at the world with wonder today. I explore, I investigate, I encourage my kids to discover. I am, in my own very real way, a scientist. I would not have remembered all this and given myself credit for it, had I not picked up Lab Girl.
Thanks for the reminder, Hope.