I will never vote for a candidate who isn’t an avid reader, and not just a reader of law books and technical manuals. We need public servants who read fiction. Why? Because being a public servant requires empathy.
Reading fiction allows one to get into the minds of characters unlike us. It allows us to understand their reasoning…or lack thereof. Reading fiction makes us empathetic, allows us to walk in another person’s footsteps.
I would like to add two books I’ve read recently to my Stories-to-Build-Empathy list: Far from the Tree by Robin Benway and Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh.
Those of us in so-called traditional families sometimes don’t understand the choices other people have made. Far from the Tree starts with an adopted girl who gets pregnant in high school and chooses to give up her daughter for adoption. She is devastated by the decision. And that is just one twist in this story.
If you’ve never been afraid for your life, you might question why any family would risk death, why they would risk the lives of their children, to become refugees. You wouldn’t do that unless you had no other options. Right? Still, people question. Nowhere Boy might help young readers understand the why. It might help the reader believe that he or she, in fact, all of us, can dig down to find what it takes to be kind and courageous.
And three’s a charm! Read Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel Jose’ Older because it is history with a twist—science fiction set in the Civil War era—and a book that can open eyes about what life was really like for people of color in the 1860s. What’s more, it is elegantly written. I can’t wait for the second book in the series, coming in May.
What are you waiting for? Add these three books to your TBR List!
I was visiting one of my fifty-plus first cousins a couple of summers ago.
“We’d all be out there playing,” Glenda said, reminiscing, “and Sharon would be in the corner reading.”
This year I kept track of the books I read, more than 120 of them, ranging from picture books to doorstop-sized tomes for adults with longer attention spans than mine. If it’s that thick, it had better be good.
This week, the last week of the year, I read two books.
An Ignorance of Means is the debut novel of Oklahoma author Jennifer Oakley Denslow. It is set in 17th-Century France. The story has a feminist slant by dint of its educated female protagonist, but it isn’t about feminism or romance but survival.
The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida is nonfiction, written in question and answer form, separated by lovely pieces of literary fiction. The author has been diagnosed with severe autism, and he struggles with spoken language. Thanks to the Herculean efforts of his mother, he can spell out words to communicate. The writing is beautiful. You feel this book.
What the two books have in common is their ability to enlighten. One teaches you about the plight of cast-off women in 17th-Century France. The other lets you in on Naoki’s struggles to control his own responses to stimuli. Both books help your brain and your understanding heart grow.
Connections. Empathy. Enlightenment. The sheer joy of experiencing something new! These are just some of the reasons why I read. And write!
I’m canning black-eyed peas tomorrow, just in time for the new year. I plan to read Dactyl Hill Squad once the pint jars of yummy goodness are in the pressure canner. I can’t think of a better way to see out the old year and welcome in the new.