Never judge a reader by their cover

It was our first year,

Americans in Australia.


My daughter and I studied the map of station names

as we rattled along on the tracks.

We’d gone too far once before.

Surely, riding the train had to be easier

than driving on the “other side.”


We’d learned to talk softly.

Our American accents often causing

the turn of a head, the raise of an eyebrow, or

a smile and a nod.


“Are you enjoying your time in my country?”

the beret-topped older gentleman next to me asked

as he tucked the Melbourne Age under his arm.


“Yes,” we said. “We live here now.”

“Oh, you never can tell who the visitors are!” he replied.


The man across the aisle

looked up from his book.

“He’s reading right to left!” Angela whispered.

I glanced, but did not recognize the print.

We didn’t know what mystery, adventure, or love he might be experiencing.


Then he boarded the train.

and settled in directly across from us.

Chains, black leather, piercings, tattoos, and

A briefcase?

Angela leaned in. “Mom, a biker with a briefcase?”

Before I could answer

“Pop, Pop” went the latches.


He reached in.

We held hands…and our breath.

He pulled out

The Joy Luck Club and began to read.

That day, we learned

Never judge a reader by his “cover.”



Tan, A. (1989). The Joy Luck Club. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.