I recently read a book that really spoke to me. Actually, that’s not strong enough. I fell in love with it. I hated to leave it when I had to, and I kept thinking about picking it back up in my free moments. It was beautiful.
That book took me places I had never been, yet it made those places familiar and comfortable. As I read, the book transported my heart too, and I felt as though I were living someone else’s life, at least for a little while.
It sounds magical, doesn’t it? It was. In fact it was an almost spiritual experience. I read and read and read and didn’t want the story to end. Sadly, though, like all books, it eventually came to a close. A lovely, satisfying close, but a close all the same. How unfortunate.
So why would anyone tell me that I couldn’t love this book?
Well, there are a few reasons that come to mind. First off, it’s technically not a story for adults. It’s not my story. It’s not my life. It’s not my history or my culture or my race or my religion. But does that matter?
As a writer, I hope that my readers can find some connection to the stories I tell. I hope that something on the page resonates with them. As I writer I don’t care that your history and mine are different. I want you to immerse yourself in mine, and see if any of it feels familiar. If it does, great, we may share some sort of connection. If it doesn’t, that’s fine too. We compare our experiences and make note of their similarities and differences.
I was a young girl growing up during the same era as the author. I chewed Bubble Yum. I listened to the O’Jays on the radio. I remember hearing about babies suffering the damaging effects of eating lead paint. I wondered why a baby would eat paint. I loved my grandparents and I made friends in school. My life was not so different in so many ways, but our paths were light-years apart. I thank her for showing me her world, and doing it so beautifully.
Don’t tell me I can’t love this book. I already do.
The book, of course, is Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming, and it is stunning.