It's been a strange time to pull out my keyboard and imagine myself into new worlds. While I sit on my couch, tucked under a weighted blanket, laptop perched in front of me, the world rages with a fire that has been burning for some time. The global pandemic continues to take a piece out of America's heart, scenes from our nation's Capitol of violence sear our collective souls and the never ending waves of evidence that racial justice eludes us assault our sense of right and wrong.
How do we make sense of a world that feels irretrievably broken and what role do the stories we weave play in the heart of this mess? I know that Angie Thomas's stories give shape to racial justice, draw discussion of institutional racism and build empathy by forcing us to confront both the humanity and the lack of humanity that lurks within each other and the systems we build. Suzanne Collin's Hunger Games reminds us that authoritarianism grows on both sides of a fence and that freedom comes at great personal cost in most cases. Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl connects me to the human condition and the role that loss, grief, abandonment and mental illness play in shaping us, even as our choices dictate how we translate those experiences into the people we become.
As a reader I often to look to storytellers to take me away from this world. I did not read all eight Bridgerton Books by Julia Quinn over the holidays to ponder the feminist issues that existed in a period of British History. I read them to escape the right now and to lose myself in beautiful love stories with Happily Ever Afters that bring me hope. Yet, I couldn't help but think about how the women's choices in these stories were limited by the norms and laws of their time. Watching the Netflix Series made it hit home all the more-- as the series does a beautiful job taking racial inequity off the table-- which somehow throws the class and gender inequity into that much more relief. It's just another example of how stories bend our perspectives.
Empathy is perhaps our greatest weapon against tyranny. It's so much harder to hurt someone when you can feel their pain as if it was your own. So in these troubling times, it seems to me, we need stories more than ever before.