How books affect us
Now, don’t get me wrong. For a writer, any and all writing feels important, but if it’s junk, it doesn’t really count. Anything we write as an 11-year-old kid counts as junk. It’s part of the learning process, and precious for that, but it’s NOT art. Not yet. Maybe finding the love of writing was important, but that writing? Just one more step in the path we call life.
Then, there’s me. I didn’t want to write books. I was a READER! I loved to read stories, to devour them like free cake when no one’s looking. Growing up as a science dork who made good grades, had no friends, and didn’t really care? All I wanted at the end of the day was a good book to lose myself in. I didn’t watch TV. I read, then read some more. I loved that the little boy or girl at the center of it all was kinda like me. Not exactly like – oh, no. But s/he was enough like me that I felt I belonged someplace. I belonged in that story.
And those lessons lasted outside the pages of the book. I learned when to keep my mouth shut by reading the verbal fights of my favorite characters. I figured out that sometimes, even when parents were meanies, they were honestly trying to help. I managed to have it sink in that adults aren’t the bad guys, but they aren’t always right, either. And most importantly, I learned that no matter how someone looks on the outside, what matters is the person they really are.
This is why I love literature: because the reality changes as we need it to. It gives us hope when we don’t have it, offers solutions when we are desperate, and wraps us up in comfort. Books are friends who prove to each of us that we’re not in this thing alone. We’re not the only people alive who are struggling. We’re all involved in the human condition, and it’s universal in so many ways…
And hope is what books always give us. No matter how bad things get, there’s always the chance that the hero will win, or at least that the villain will pay for what they have done. There’s always that little spark of light that the world could be better than it is now.
It’s why I fell in love with reading. That impossible hope is a drug I will never get enough of. The daydreams of a future where everyone gets what they need/want/deserve is seductive to an intelligent mind, and I like to think mine is. That need is what kept me coming back, book after book, to read yet another story, to lose myself in this hobby called reading.
And one day, when my own hope finally broke, it’s the same thing that made me open a document and type those first words onto the page:
“Weaving through the large, dark-skinned bodies of the soldiers around her, Sal touched the paper in her pocket like a talisman.”