Anyone who comes to this blog can probably presume that I like to read. It is a joy and a comfort to be with books, to explore the worlds they create, and to meet the characters they bring to life. Books can be a pleasure and they can also be a pain. You only have to think of your high school years where you were forced to read a book or two you did not want to read. We’ve all been there, even us book lovers.
But books have become something much more for me over the past few years. They became a comfort. A place to escape to when I did not know what to do, when I did not want to face the real world. I know I am not the first person to talk about this, but I don’t think it can be said enough: books are not just objects that help people cope with day to day stress, they are sometimes a necessity. They are more than just mere distractions. For many people books are more than paper. Reading a book can help you discover that you are not alone: if an author writes about a character similar to you with similar struggles, it is because that author has in some way seen it in the world, in the people around them too.
Sadly, not all of us get the opportunity to read. Through the influences of poverty, trauma, displacement, and lack of education, many people are cut off from that vital life line. A life line that does not simply serve to ease anxiety or stress, but also a life line that helps people find work, study, and live in the world.
Books cannot solve everything, but they start a fire inside of us that is stronger than anything I have ever seen. There is a real power in books. A power that I love, cherish, respect, and try to spread whenever possible.
In 2014 when Ferguson was on fire with rage, frustration, and heartbreak, I turned to books to help me understand. Amongst the literature I read, two books stood out to me “Black Masculinity” by Robert Staples and “Black Masculinity in the Black Imagination” edited by Ronald L. Jackson and Mark C. Hopson. The books are academic, and despite the stigma that comes with this title, these books were far from boring or dusty. They helped me not only understand more about the deep seeded issues of race and racism in the USA, but also helped me to articulate my frustrations surrounding gun laws, police violence, and the horrible senseless murders of African American people (especially African American male youth) in the USA.
Many people argue that books don’t solve problems, but I would agree, partially. Books may not solve the problem, but they provide people with the knowledge and determination to find the answers within themselves. And that, to me, is something truly amazing.