Oh, how I loved this. I don’t read a lot of biographies (though I know full well I should), but when I do, I tend to listen to audios if I can, especially if they’re read by the person in question. In this case, Sharon Washington took her one-woman play and worked with Audible to create Feeding the Dragon: The True Story of the Little Girl Who Lived in the Library. This is a short biopic piece, which she performs to absolute perfection.
It pivots around Sharon’s childhood, growing up in an apartment on the top floor of the St. Agnes Branch of the New York Public Library, and her relationship with her family (most importantly her mother and father). They had this apartment because of her father’s job—custodian of the St. Agnes Branch—and the opening descriptions of Sharon’s access to the library after hours, and how this formed a childhood for her that was somewhere between magical and illusory, was freaking brilliant.
Washington doesn’t pull punches, though. Her childhood was also hit by a series of unwelcome revelations, the realities of being a black girl in New York, and these flow seamlessly into her narrative. Alcoholism, racism, classism, ableism… there’s a lot to unpack in such a short piece, but somehow Washington juggles it all (seemingly) effortlessly, and with such a brilliant variation of voice, inflection, and character.
Living above a library was obviously many things, and it’s a story I’m glad Washington told. I only hope more people hear it, be that on the stage, or through this audiobook.