Booking Through Thursday: Being Prepared

If there really is [an ideal] town like this in America, I am happy about that. Really truly happy. But are your teenagers going to stay in that town forever? Don’t you want them to go to college? Or go out in the world and do stuff? And don’t you want them to be prepared for all of these real things that happen all the time in real life? Don’t you want them to know that they will make mistakes? Don’t you want them to learn how to make smarter mistakes?

Fiction can help. I write my books for one reason, whether they are for adults or teens. I write to make readers think. I write to widen perspective. I write to make readers ask questions and then answer the questions or start conversations. And I write sometimes to give voice to the throwaways, of which our society has many, but we usually hide them because we are still uncomfortable with what we see as our own mistakes. Make sure you say that in a whisper. Throwaways.

And so … this, right here, pretty much explains exactly WHY I like reading so much. Yes, it’s fun and entertaining and diverting, and all that, but ultimately, it TEACHES me things. It broadens my horizons and makes me look at ideas and people and life in general in new and interesting ways. Isn’t that what reading and art in general is SUPPOSED to do? How do you feel about this? Do you agree? Disagree? Discuss!

I agree completely, and here’s a big reason why–one of the things I’ve noticed with people who have frustrated the shit out of me over the past several months, possibly up through the last few years, is that there’s a huge lack of perspective. I realized that with a lot of people I consider to be selfish or lacking compassion, the root of the problem is perspective. They don’t understand or acknowledge that other people, other problems, and other options or values exist, and when you say, “Well, imagine if you were in this situation how it would make you feel or how you’d react,” they still don’t get it.

Reading a book might not completely fix that, but at least you’re potentially getting someone else’s view of the world, and that’s one of the things I love about reading, especially reading nonfiction in general. Most notably with memoir, you’ve got someone laying out their experiences. They’re telling you exactly what happened and how they reacted, and even for the writer it’s a journey of learning, growing, interpreting, and processing. What’s the best way to understand life? By hearing someone who’s lived it telling you in their own words about their own experiences in the best way they could organize it and make sense of it. When you consider the many different writers, backgrounds, experiences, and lifestyles and you don’t dismiss a book outright, you’re potentially opening yourself up to endless possibilities of learning and perspective. And when you toss in fiction, which can be just as powerful if not more so, you end up with a lifetime of new people, ideas, and worlds to explore.

As a writer and speaking specifically of an essay I’ve been hammering away at off and on for technically like two years about collapsing friendships, the goal is both to tell the story I want to tell but understand it, too, because life is messy, and hope that readers can take something away from it they can then apply to their lives, whether it be learning from my mistakes or learning from others’. No one–and this applies to non-writers, too–will learn anything from life and the world if we all keep quiet about what we’ve learned on our own, for better or worse.

This really does tie into censorship beautifully, because this sums up a big reason why–maybe that I didn’t even realize–I’m so against it. Look, crazy overprotective helicopter parents, your kid is not going to be tainted by the content in a book. Reading about someone having sex or doing drugs isn’t going to turn them into a promiscuous addict any more than reading Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings will turn you into a wizard or hobbit, respectively. In fact, reading about a struggle–real or not–can teach how to avoid it or how to handle it if you can’t avoid it. Sure, maybe people will be introduced to healthier ways of approaching subject matter books get banned for–for example, maybe a book will encourage healthy attitudes about sexual relationships–but that’s only bad because it doesn’t match up with someone’s ideals.

And like I said, the more you tell someone they shouldn’t consume some art form because it’s somehow bad, the more they’ll be interested.

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