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and many other things.  I knew all this by watching them at mealtimes.  I could

see their kitchen table, the sink and the stove.  During good times, he sat at the table

and read his newspapers while she fixed the meals.  If they argued, he would leave

and the old woman would sit and stare at nothing for a long time.  When one of them

was sick, the other would come and get things from the kitchen and carry them out on

a tray.  (8)

This quotation also shows the young writer honing her skills of observation in silence, over time.  In another essay, “The Paterson Public Library,” the reader sees the young Cofer becoming a committed bibliophile.  This public repository of books is remembered with these telling words, “It was a Greek temple in the ruins of an American city” (130).  To get to this temple, a skinny Cofer risked being bullied by Lorraine, an older, bigger black girl who lived nearby, but young Cofer ran that risk regularly anyway because “my need for books was strong enough to propel me down the dreary streets with their slush-covered sidewalks and the skinny trees of winter looking like dark figures from a distance:  angry black girls waiting to attack me” (131).  

And Cofer’s description of the inside of the library is Keatsian in its sensual attention to particulars:

Inside the glass doors was the inexhaustible treasure of books, and I made my

way through the stacks like the beggar invited to the wedding feast.  I remember

the musty, organic smell of the library, so different from the air outside.  It was the

smell of an ancient forest, and since the first books that I read for pleasure were fairy tales, the aroma of transforming wood suited me as a prop.(131)

The library was literally her sanctuary.  It provided her with ideas to navigate the hazards

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