Storm Reyes grew up in migrant farm worker camps outside Tacoma, Washington during the early 1960s. Most of the laborers were, like Storm, Native Americans. They were paid less than one dollar per hour for their work in berry patches and apple orchards throughout the state.
Storm started working as a full-time laborer herself when she was 8 years old. Her family lived without electricity or running water. But at StoryCorps she told her son, Jeremy Hagquist, about the day something arrived in camp that changed the course of her life.
Click here for the transcript.
But when I was 12, a bookmobile came to the fields. And you have to understand that I wasn’t allowed to have books, because books are heavy, and when you’re moving a lot you have to keep things just as minimal as possible. So when I saw this big vehicle on the side of the road, and it was filled with books, I immediately stepped back. Fortunately when the staff member saw me, kind of waved me in, and said, “These are books, and you can take one home. You have to bring it back in two weeks, but you can take them home and read them.” I’m like, “What’s the catch?” And he explained to me there was no catch. Then he asked me what I was interested in.
And the night before the bookmobile had come, in the camps, there was an elder who was telling us about the day that Mount Rainier blew up, and the devastation from the volcano. So I told the bookmobile person that I was a little nervous about the mountain blowing up. And he said, “You know, the more you know about something, the less you will fear it.”
And then he gave me a book about volcanos. And then I saw a book about dinosaurs. I said “Oh, that looks neat.” So he gave me a book about dinosaurs. And I took them home, and I devoured them. I didn’t just read them, I devoured them. And I came back in two weeks and had more questions. And he gave me more books and that started it.
That taught me that hope was not just a word. And it gave me the courage to leave the camps. That’s where the books made the difference.
By the time I was 15, I knew there was a world outside of the camps. I believed I could find a place in it. And I did.
Institute of Museum and Library Services and Pierce County Library