“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
― James Baldwin
A week ago, when I titled my Sunday Salon post “Welcome to the Last Week of America as We Know It”, a line borrowed from Saturday Night Live, I was not expecting … well, this.
I speak, of course, of the election’s aftermath and what appears to be an unprecedented, dark, grave new world.
Lest you think I’m being overly dramatic, sarcastic or cavalier, let me assure you otherwise. I am deeply, deeply concerned about the path we are on as a country and the days ahead. In yesterday’s post (“Seeing Red”) I shared my initial thoughts on the horrific state of our union.
While my anger hasn’t abated — indeed, it’s likely to stay heightened in light of news of loathsome individuals en masse who are being appointed to the highest positions of power in the land and plans already in the works to deport 30 million people — it is being fueled by a desire to do whatever I can to be a strong voice and effect change.
I’ve been reflecting on how this unprecedented moment offers an opportunity for avid readers, especially book bloggers, to make a renewed, focused commitment to elevate and celebrate literature that is more diverse, that raises awareness, that focuses on the issues and the people who will need us as champions and advocates in these uncertain times.
I’d like to think I already do this — or, at least I try to. My literary diet already consists of ample helpings of literature with LGBTQ themes and issues impacting women, girls, and people with disabilities. That’s certainly not going to change. But I recognize that I need to step up my game in this area considerably by reading and blogging about books outside my comfort zone.
These times require nothing less.
I want to read more books by and about people of color and other ethnicities in order to deepen my understanding of history and race, of the lives and experiences of people whose background and circumstances don’t necessarily mirror mine.
I want to read more books about feminism and to get on a first name basis with the suffragettes and the pioneers of the women’s movement. I want to read more books about the process of creating “the old mechanisms of compensatory care and activism” from the past because I think the grassroots, underground movements that provided health care and services to people in crisis are going to be the models for the path forward. (h/t to my friend Sarah Einstein, author of MOT and Remnants of Passion for letting me borrow some of her words)
I want to read more books from our library’s extensive World Fiction collection and seek out voices from other cultures besides this one.
I want to read more books to strengthen my knowledge of the issues that allowed someone like the President-elect to tap into the anger and frustration of so many people.
And above all, I want to read more books about ways that I can continue to cultivate a healthy and calm spirit with a strong mind and body, because these times are going to require all that we have to give to ourselves, those we love, and the changed world in which we now live.