Guest Blog by Leah E. Reinhart
I am a true product of Oakland Public Schools. And that is not a compliment. When I attended in the mid-seventies and eighties, Oakland had the worst schools in the country and was one of the most violent cities as well. There wasn’t much room for studies when the main objective was trying to stay safe. No one knew much about the term anxiety back then, but you could say I probably had a lot of it. My safe haven was my friends and the need to be busy. It did not include reading.
I started going to the neighborhood church. They didn’t believe in reading books that were deemed evil, sexual, or anything scientific. Education was not for anyone. My mother allowed me to go to the church, but abhorred their philosophies. She was an avid reader and loved Stephen King and many more. She always encouraged me to read, but reading was difficult for me. Not only did I have anxiety and dyslexia, but also probably undiagnosed ADHD. I always had to be doing something that involved moving my body, and reading didn’t fall into that category.
I hated reading to the point where I would make up books and authors to create my own book reports in order to fulfill my reading assignments. It wasn’t until I screwed my life up with drugs, alcohol, and sex, and after leaving the church, that I found an interest in reading. I was alone and pregnant at twenty-years of age and couldn’t quite make sense of how I ended up in this situation. I sought help with a therapist and through her recommendations, discovered self-help books. I was fascinated by the stories in these books. These people had screwed up like me and yet found a way to be successful. If they could do it, so could I.
The self-help books carried over into my career as a hairstylist. The salon I had been working in started a personal development program which involved reading and setting goals. I was amazed how things changed for me. I could set goals and achieve them fairly easily. My life was turning around. My screw ups weren’t defining me anymore.
Unbeknownst to me, I began my own hero’s journey. The self-help books led me to reading memoirs. I had an affinity to the unexplainable and psychology. I wanted to understand family dynamics. I had no clue what normal was or if it even existed. Reading memoirs showed me that I wasn’t alone. I knew from reading and my own personal experiences that patterns needed to be broken before any real change could happen. Thankfully, I did change the pattern, in my life and in my reading material.
One summer my favorite television series ended and I had nothing interesting to watch. I picked up Harry Potter the Goblet of Fire and dove in. I discovered fantasy. It had a perfect combination of family dysfunction with magic. It was then I also discovered late night reading — you know –the kind when you can’t sleep because you need to know what is going to happen next. I had read a few books before, like Jurassic Park, but nothing engaged me like this one. Then Jodi Picoult’s Leaving Time blew my mind.
That was the start of my expansion into different genres and the notion of writing my very own story. It was suggested by many of my hair clients to share my own personal journey. I started my memoir in 2009, the year my mother lost her battle with cancer. It took several years to bring it to life. June 2018 was the official birth of my first published book – Manifesting Me: A Story of Rebellion and Redemption.
Never in a million years would I have ever imagined writing or publishing a book. Now, I am in the process of writing a novel. I wish my mother were here to see her teachings weren’t for nothing. I have read more books in the last year and I have found my new passion. If it weren’t for others sharing their life stories, I wouldn’t have thought it possible for me to share mine. Who knew that a girl with a marginal education and dyslexia would become an author and avid reader? Mother would be proud.
Leah E. Reinhart is a hair stylist and angel card reader turned author. When the market crashed and business was slow, her hair clients encouraged her to write a memoir after hearing some of her stories about her unusual childhood in Oakland, California. She started writing and a whole new journey began as she began to fall in love with writing and reading. Leah E. Reinhart is a mother of two and a wife, and currently works in her not-so-ordinary salon, Wellness Garden Tool Shed.