One thing I love about reading, is the way that authors and readers can tackle difficult, difficult topics. Even just this month, I’ve read two amazing books that covered very hard subject matters.
Now, I don’t think every author can or should write a book that works through difficult topics. BUT there are some books and discussions in the bookish world that are incredible important.
This is supposed to be a discussion post of some sort? At least, that’s the way I pictured this post in my head. I’ve had a lot of trouble putting my thoughts into writing, so I hope this rambling of thoughts ends up making some sense.
We need books that cover difficult topics. I’m going to be talking about why we need these books today. Some of this is painful to write and read. I’m not trying to be insensitive, but honest about what I’m seeing around me. CW for a variety of stories about insensitive people.
Not everyone experiences the same problems or same types of lives. When authors can discuss hard subjects in books, it gives us the freedom to ask hard questions of life.
And, it helps to be on the ‘same page’ so to speak. For example, when I meet a friend at my predominantly white college who has read The Hate U Give, I assume they are now more familiar with unfair policing practices in America. When I mention systematic racism, they might know what I’m talking about.
Because people who haven’t read or experienced life for people in color, cannot understand it. You just can’t know what life is like if you’ve never stepped into another person’s shoes.
I was sitting in my argumentation and debate class, and one classmate said he didn’t believe systematic racism even exists. I was flabbergasted and angry. I could have quoted statistics about racist policing tactics, but I knew he wouldn’t listen to stats. Because his mind was already made up.
Now, I wish I could have made him read the Hate U Give, because maybe he would have understood then. (but I have actual little hope for this person) Since police brutality is such a tricky subject for white people for whatever weird reasons, I instead talked about the higher rates of suspensions for students of color in middle school compared to white students. So, a few stats juts to show him he had NO IDEA what he was saying. And maybe, just maybe he realized I was justified for saying systematic racism really does exist.
BUT all these thoughts about systematic racism come from reading two books – The Hate U Give and When They Call You a Terrorist. One is YA fiction that opened my eyes to how bad life really is, and the other is a memoir that is heartrending and filled my head with statistics. So, thank you books, for knocking on the door of my white privilege.
I would also like to think, that sometimes, you simply can’t handle some heavy subjects without fiction. Maybe this doesn’t make sense, unless you really go through it.
So, let me try to explain. I better understand my emotions about my experience with assault and not being believed when I read a book with characters who go through the same problems. It validates my experience, and gives me hope that in the future, people won’t have to deal with the same system that I’ve dealt with.
It is not easy to read a book like Girl Made of Stars. I cried a lot. It was not easy to see the abuser get away with his abuse.
But it was also better? Because that’s more truthful to what does happen so very often. My abuser walks free today because the statute of limitations expired. That’s not right. Reading about another character who doesn’t get justice made me angry. But it also comforted me – I’m not the only one whose voice has been ignored.
Recent events regarding abusers and sexual assault have made me SO ANGRY. Again, sitting in classrooms and hearing people brush aside charges of assault make me MAD. But knowing that authors, and other readers, see these same problems is somewhat comforting.
It is hopeful to know that some people ARE listening to victims.
Now, I know that reading isn’t the perfect way to step into other people’s shoes. But for some people,it is the only way you can currently imagine what other people’s lives are like. But you shouldn’t just read. Talk to other people. I try talking to my friends of color, and actually listening more than talking. Their stories are so important. I want to hear my non-white friends’ stories.
An important way I’ve found to learn about other people’s expeireicnes is to follow other book bloggers. Not only do they share books that are similar to their own life, but they have AMAZING stories. Their experience is SO IMPORTANT, and if you just listen to them, you become so much more aware of your own privilege and things that need to be made right in the world.
Some bloggers who you should read.
I’m sure there are many more, but these are just some of the bloggers that I’ve learned so much from! And they often tackle difficult topics on their blog, and I always admire how brave they each are.
If you haven’t started reading books that deal with difficult topics, here are just a few authors to start with. I’ll share a tiny bit about about how each book has impacted me.
Sabaa Tahir – An Ember in the Ashes
This series is fantasy, but it deals so much with colonialism. As a person who grew up steeped in an imperialistic view of American history, reading the perspective of life from one whose people have been colonized was eye-opening.
It’s easy to admire the colonizer as wielder of power, and not realize how wrong power wielding is. An Ember in the Ashes doesn’t just deal with colonizing, it deals with racism, and white feminism, and religious conflicts.
That was kind of weirdly worded? Let’s just try to say – I’m learning through Tahir’s writing how bad life really is and how being content with your own privilege actively harms other people.
Tomi Adeyemi – Children of Blood and Bone
Another eye-opening read! This book also deals with colonialism, as well as slavery and racism. It’s so rich and powerful. I could not put this story down, and yes, everyone needs to start reading this epic fantasy series. I can’t wait to see how the story further develops in the next book.
Also, the author’s note at the end made me weep. Read the entire book, especially the author’s note.
Books about LGBTQ+ Diversity and Struggles
Maybe I should write an entire post about LGBT books, but for now I’ll just recommend some of my favorites. These authors are mostly own voices, and their writing is poignant. The stories can be heartbreaking, and beautiful, and sometimes joyful.
Miseducation of Cameron Post – If this doesn’t make you scream in frustration, I don’t know what else could. It’s good. Go read it.
More Happy Than Not – Adam Silvera’s debut, and besides breaking my heart, it’s just so poignant. And deeply personal.
Dress Codes for Small Towns – This book can make you laugh AND cry and it’s just so good. It really challenged me to rethink how I view femininity.
My brain is a mixed up mess right now, so I hope all these rambling thoughts made sense!
Basically, books that tackle difficult, controversial subjects are so important. I’m very grateful for books that opened my eyes to how other people experience the world, and pointed out the way privilege impacts my life.
Do you have any favorite books that cover difficult subjects? Or favorite authors?
What books have changed the way you view the world? Do you ever want to throw books at people just so they HAVE to read them? (or is that just me?)
Any difficult subject/topics you think YA book should talk about?