What Fiction Stories Taught Me
I got to thinking yesterday about what I get out of reading. The genres or tropes I’ve read over the years may have changed but does that mean what I get out reading has? I don’t think so. I think no matter what each of us read we learn something from that story, those characters. Whether that is something about ourselves or about the world or society as a whole.
I know reading Three Wishes by Barbara Delinsky showed me I can love a book and not its ending, And that I absolutely believe in fate and how each one of our choices can affect our path going forward. Like if I hadn’t fallen in love with my best friend 22 years ago, would I have the life I have now? My kids? How can that one choice change the path I went down?
I know reading a book like Everyday History by Alice Archer that we don’t see the life in all the small things that we live with every day. We don’t, but should, remember who and why that picture or Knick knacks are important because just like we say songs can take us back to a memory, all of our everyday items hold history; our history, our memories, our emotions. I pay attention to those things now.
I know reading a book like the Thomas Elkin series by N.R. Walker that age is just a number and what matters most in any relationship is the fit that two people have with each other. Our age is something we can’t change but it doesn’t have to define us. I am almost 40 years old (I’m young at heart) but I am going to dye my hair purple because my age doesn’t define my personality.
I know reading a book like Sunset Park by Santino Hassell shows that our sexuality can be something we don’t know at a young age. We can go through life wondering, thinking that maybe what we have always known about ourselves wasn’t the truth. Or at the very least the truth as we knew it at the time. The life that we lead everyday has a lot to do with what we know about ourselves. What we can accept about ourselves. Going through life curious but thinking you can’t or shouldn’t accept those feelings is one of the hardest things to do.
(The fact I even wrote this next part is due to a post Keira Andrews wrote yesterday on her Facebook page. Thank you Keira, because it gave me courage and knowledge I was not alone in my feelings)
I am one of those people. I had always thought one way about myself never knowing that the thoughts I was having, the feelings I was experiencing were not what everyone else was thinking or feeling. Not until reading and learning through the stories that authors created about characters going through their own journeys did I know who I am. Did the thought of anything but what I already knew about myself was even possible. It hadn’t ever crossed my mind. I am bisexual. My husband knows and very few friends. I don’t hide it but I don’t shout it out either. I haven’t told my mom or my brothers. And it is not something I talk about. I am getting better day by day stilling the fear within myself of what people’s reaction would be. In some ways this, saying this here for a group rather than one on one is easier.
We all talk about what should be in our books. Diversity, everyone says. We need more people of color, we need more characters that envelope the LGBTQ+ spectrum, and we need to tackle real life issues such as Biphobia. And until yesterday I was halfhearted about that idea. I know those things should be addressed but to me I kept thinking “how is a fictional book going to change anything?”
But it does. I am proof of that.
I have learned more about myself reading fictional books that I have history books.
I have learned more about myself reading fictional books than I have talking to friends.
I have learned more about myself reading fictional books than I have living my life.
Authors have shown me a life and a world I didn’t live in because of where and how I was brought up. They let me see things that I didn’t experience or even think about. These stories opened my heart and my mind to the possibilities and the people out there. Do we need more diversity to teach people there is more than what they experience in their everyday lives? Yes, absolutely!
Right now I know we have those authors writing the stories that need to be told. Not every writer should have to do this, of course, they can and will write what they want as is their right but as long as we have others willing to tell the stories that might help or change the mind of one person we are on the right path.
What we need most are you to be willing to open your ears and your mind to listening when someone speaks their truth, their pain, and their experience. You do not have to agree, of course, but as mature adults we should do what we teach our kids.
Listen with an open heart.
See how much books mean? See what they do?
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