Today’s discussion may be a little… sensitive in nature. So I’ve decided to impose a little ruleage here: please understand nothing I say is meant offensively and please be respectful of others’ opinions. This really isn’t so much a “discussion” post as it is a “share your thoughts and insights with others” post.
There have been three recent events that sparked the idea for this discussion:
- My finishing of The Book Thief (review here)
- The suggested required reading of To Kill a Mockingbird
- A comment made about The Help
Before I begin I should mention that, with the exception of a military brat early childhood, I have grown up in Alabama. Both sides of my family are from Selma and my parents grew up during the Civil Rights era. I grew up surrounded by “Selma racism.” Luckily, both my parents were raised to be classy citizens and NOT consumed by bigotry and raised me and my siblings to be the same, but I’m beyond being shocked by the cruelty of my state’s racist past.
Anywho… I think I’ll begin with #3. My mom read The Help (her only comment on it was “I wonder if we treated our maid this bad?”) and a co-worker of hers found out; she had also read the book. This woman was from one of the northern states, maybe Michigan, and was flabbergasted that blacks were treated like that in the book. She asked my mom if the situations in the book were real or exaggerated. Clearly, they were real.
The lovely ladies at Gone Pecan (who have a fantastic blog that you should check out!) answered a question a couple weeks ago regarding what book(s) they remember enjoying in high school and what book(s) should be in today’s curriculum. The first book they mentioned was To Kill a Mockingbird (a book I haven’t read) and said it was a favorite from high school. They then suggested The Help should be in today’s curriculum. Which are both excellent answers.
Finally, I finished The Book Thief, which, if you don’t already know, centers around Nazi Germany during WWII.
So how do these three things tie together? They got me wondering about if where we live in our region of the world affects our attitudes and preferences towards books we read.
For me, reading books that deal with racism in the south, slavery, Civil Rights Movement, etc. are sort of a novelty. What I mean by this isn’t that it’s not serious but that it’s such a part of our culture down here that there’s really nothing new or eye-opening about it and therefore it’s mostly lost on me. I know we have a terrible and embarrassing past – I don’t enjoy being reminded of it in books I read. I grew up in this culture and I live in it every day. We’ve made great strides as a state but there’s still racism, from most races, so, for me, I feel only exposing myself (and others) to books that show how racist we were doesn’t help us to move on. If I read a book that takes place in the South (which I LOVE btw) I’d prefer it to be more modern, one that shows where we are now as a southern society and culture, not where we’ve been.
This being said, there are other cultures that I enjoy reading about because they are somewhat foreign to me, especially their histories. Usually the more dramatic and tumultuous, the more interested I am. For example: a while ago I came across a series that was about early 18th century Acadia and the Great Expulsion (or at least that’s what I think it’s called). It was VERY interesting to me. But would it be interesting to someone from that region? Maybe… maybe not.
My question for you is this: Do you feel where you’re from affects what types of subjects you enjoy or don’t enjoy? Are there subjects that you don’t enjoy reading because you feel the impact of book’s subject is lost on you? What subjects and/or cultures do you find yourself drawn to reading?