Wednesday, 30 August 2017

The Importance of Books, and Blogging, in Bad Times

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. This is partly due to stuff going on in my life at the moment – particularly the stress/excitement of preparing for the new academic year after getting a promotion – but also due to the general situation in the world.
I keep thinking about a post I could do, a list I could make, or some recommendations I could share. And then I look at the news, or my Twitter feed, and I see the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey, the racism and homophobia suffered by so many people, the constant debacle which seems to be world politics in 2017 – and I think why on earth does my opinion on books matter, given all of this really important stuff going on?
(Two points to make – firstly, I know that none of this is new, it just seems to be hitting me harder than usual at the moment. Secondly, as a white, cis, able-bodied straight-passing male in his 30’s I have more privilege than the vast majority of people I know who read this blog/talk to me on Twitter do, so while I’m feeling like this I know I have much less to worry about than many people do.)
But of course, to slightly change my question, books themselves DO matter, particularly in tough times. Speaking from that privileged position, I can’t imagine anyone of a different race to the authors reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, or When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, and NOT having their eyes opened to different cultures. Similarly surely any guy who reads Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu, We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Adichie or What’s A Girl Gotta Do by Holly Bourne will have their eyes opened to the injustice faced by women and resolve to be better at playing a part in supporting the women fighting back against it.
I could say the same thing, with respect to LGBT characters, about Meredith Russo’s gorgeous If I Was Your Girl, Hannah Moskovitz’s outstanding Not Otherwise Specified, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli and Tanya Byrne’s glorious Hackney Moon, in the Stripes anthology A Change Is Gonna Come. Or when it comes to characters with chronic pain, Far From You by Tess Sharpe and Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology have opened my eyes, while I have appreciated the amazing mental health rep in books like Patrick Ness’s The Rest of Us Just Live Here and Louise Gornall’s Under Rose-Tainted Skies so, so much.
And of course, that’s just me looking at characters who are windows for me, rather than mirrors. Seeing an ace character play a lead role in Laura Nowlin’s wonderful This Song Is Not For You was an incredibly heart-warming thing for me, and I think this was perhaps the first time I realised exactly how important it was that people get the representation they need in books – I wonder how differently I’d have felt in my teens if I’d read a book like this then.
Going back to my original question, then, I’m not that sure how much my opinion matters. But I know that the books themselves are so, so important, and if me talking about them can help other people discover wonderful reads, see themselves in fiction, and empathise with people unlike them, I guess that even with everything else going on, I should be more confident about writing posts.
So I’m going to carry on looking at the news, as horrible as it can be at times. I’m going to try and keep informed about things, signal-boost people who understand stuff better than me, and donate where I can to help those affected by tragedy. But I’m going to stop thinking that I should just keep quiet about books, because I know that they ARE important and I want to do my best to spread the word about all the amazing ones out there.