The other day I was leaving my therapist’s office (I see a therapist for anxiety related issues, which can be a whole post in and of itself), and thinking about how much I have changed in the last few years. I then got to thinking about what helped lead me to be more comfortable in my own skin. One of the main things is reading, finding characters I can relate to and being part of a plot that in the end finds a solution.
During my session we got to talking about me being an introvert and that for the longest time I thought that being quiet was wrong. I grew up in an extroverted household and around a lot of extroverted people. I was seen as the shy one, sometimes even a bit rude because I had an issue talking with people. I thought there was something wrong with how I interacted with the world, because I was so different from those around me.
It wasn’t until about 4 years ago that I realized that being quiet is not a wrong thing. I realized this after reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. It made me realize that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. I just experienced the world differently.
There was nothing wrong with the fact that being around huge groups of people all the time was exhausting to me. I could put a name and idea to the way I got frustrated, tired and irritable after being around people all the time. It started to make sense. I realized how to adjust myself. I learned how to find a balance between what I need and the world around me.
I don’t know if I would have ever found that balance without that book. That is not the first time that a book impacted my life though. Books have been helping me find a way to deal with world around me ever since I can remember.
I began reading when I was young because I felt like I needed somewhere to belong. Being the quiet one made me invisible in school. I had a few friends but no one seemed to see me. I was quiet so the teachers wrote me off as one not to worry about while other students figured I wasn’t worth the time to get to know. Books made me realize that I mattered in someway.
I read and saw these characters work to find solutions to huge problems. Whether it was the world ending, a personal problem or saving a loved one; they always found a way to solve that problem. Sometimes it worked as they wanted, while other times it didn’t. Yet they always found a way to move one and continue living. I learned from my favorite stories what courage meant.
I fell in love with characters that I could relate to in the stories I loved. Hermione was this nerd that at first seemed like someone everyone was going to write off. She loved to study and learn new things, just like me. She was teased but she never changed who she was at her core. She stood up for herself and continued living for herself.
One moment I remember hitting me hard was in the fourth book when she gets all done up for the Yule Ball. She liked how she looked but realized that effort was too much for everyday. She was just as satisfied with how she looked every other day of her life as well.
For me that meant a lot. I have always had an issue with accepting the way I look. I am not what you would call a girly girl. I didn’t feel comfortable wearing dresses until my last weekend in college. I still only wear them now once in a while. I never wear makeup because I just don’t see enough of a different not justify the time needed. I have always thought of myself as a bit less because I don’t follow the usual stereotype of what being a girl means.
I found characters in books who were able to accept themselves as they were. Not only was there Hermione but Clary in Mortal Instruments and April from the Everworld series. I found myself in books and found ways I could relate to the world around me better.
As I grew older this became even more important. Recently I read The Hearts We Sold and Dee talked about her anxiety a bit, I felt like I could relate more to the character. I also have learned how to be stronger from the stories I have read. I read wondering how in the world things can work out sometimes and yet they always do. Characters find a way to succeed and I know that I can too.
For someone who has spent most of my life thinking that I have been living life wrong; being 29 and unmarried, no kids and just finding a full time job this year, I appreciate a story where things don’t go as they “should” go. I get to see that life is too complicated for us to ever think we have to live it one way.
I know when I pick up a book that it will take me somewhere where I can learn sometime. Even in books that I don’t enjoy that much, there is always something I can learn. I will always be someone who pushes reading as the most important thing in our society.
We learn about others while learning about ourselves by reading. Books help us see that the world is complicated but also conquerable. Books provide hope.
I just was thinking about all this the other day and thought writing it up would be interesting. How has reading shaped your life?
One of the reasons I love to read is because it gives me a window into another world and another life. I get to be whoever I am reading about. I get to see life through their eyes and get to experience the world in a way I may not have known before.
One of the reasons I write is to give people a way to look into another life. I think reading is one of the most important ways for us, as a society, to learn about each other. We may not be able to live or visit every culture or meet someone and learn about their religion. But when you pick up a book about a different culture, religion, gender, sexuality or any combination, for that time you are experiencing a different way of life.
I believe now, more than ever, we need to read a number of different books portraying all walks of life. I am not someone who actively choose diverse books, though I would like to change that. I pick up a book usually based off the summary. I am willing and happy to read about anyone and just about anything.
In light of some things that have been happening recently I have decided to take part in Diversity Bingo 2017 hosted by Bookshelves and Paperbacks. I want to diversify my reading. I want to branch out from what I normally read. I want to extend my understanding of groups of people and ways of life that are not like my own. Right now it sort of feels like the world is trying to dampen the significance and importance of diversity. Though I am proud to see so many fighting to keep this from happening.
I called my blog Stories Have Power for a reason. I whole-heartedly believe that stories can do so much for so many. If my reading more diversely, reviewing them and posting about them brings attention to this issue than I will have accomplished my goal. I may not have political power and I may have trouble raising my voice at times but I can extend my own way of thinking. I can take what I learn and what I read and I can share it so more people can broaden their own minds.
With this you are supposed to post a TBR alongside this card. I don’t have a set TBR right now. I plan on using this card to help me when I go on book buying binges (which happens quite often). I will update this as I read from categories. I don’t know how many of these I may get to throughout the year, but I will try my hardest to get to them all.
If you have recommendations of books I should read and add to my TBR from any of these categories, please share! I would love to hear about what you have read and loved. Stay tuned, I will update this with a list of the books with reviews as I read and cross squares off!
(I will be placing a yellow star in the corner of the ones I have read. I didn’t want to put an X and make it difficult to read what the square said).
MC with an Invisible Disability – History is All You Left Me By Adam Silvera – I choose this one because the MC has OCD. Sometimes OCD is not invisible but for this story is was unless you knew Griffen. He has to do things in even numbers and he couldn’t have anyone on his left side. It was interesting to read how different characters responded to this side of him. Some accepted it and tried to do things in certain ways to make him comfortable while others tried to help him move beyond his compulsions. I thought it was an interesting take on the disability and how it can be handled by different people in a person’s life. You can read my review of the book here.
Bisexual MC (Own Voices) – Of Stars and Fire by Audrey Coulthurst – There are two main characters in this story,Dennaleia and Mare. Dennaleia is supposed to be wed to Mare’s brother but quickly find herself falling for his stubborn sister. Mare is bisexual (though it is not something that is focused on), she mentions her past relationships being both male and female. One of the best things about this story was that there wasn’t a huge focus on choosing a sexuality, they just fell who they fell for and that was it. I go into more detail about it in my review of the book, here.
Non-Binary Character – At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson – I altered this one a bit just because this book doesn’t involve a non-binary main character but it does have a non-binary side character and this is the first time I have ever read this type of character. Lua is the main character’s best friend and they are non-binary. I liked the way they were written, they explain their self in a way that makes perfect sense. I thought the identity was represented well and I wanted to include it in here because of that. My review for the book is, here.
Another one for Non-Binary is Mask of Shadows by Lindsey Miller. The main character Sal is non- binary. They use pronouns based on how they are dressed. I thought it was well-represented by my knowledge. I have also read a number of reviews by non-binary reviewers who also agree that it was represented. My review of the book is here.