On the Books That Expand Our Horizons

Well, readers. We left work Friday, and before the end of the weekend, there had been not one, but two mass shootings in America—three that week alone. Many of the mass shootings this year, in 2018, and stretching back before that, have been violences driven by white-nationalist ideologies, the kinds of ideologies which decree some humans more worthy of rights than others, based on the color of their skin or where they were born.

In times like these, with gun violence and bigotry running rampant in our home country, this social media manager has been thinking about reading as self care, and also as a perspective-expanding tool. Stories allow us to very-about-literally place ourselves in other person’s shoes—experience what they experience moving through the world.

I grew up in suburban and rural areas in the South, in public school systems with 75-80% White students, but being a voracious reader exposed me to stories like that of Amir, a young Afghani boy living during regime change in The Kite Runner; to stories of parentless children, people experiencing homelessness in The Thief Lord; to stories of mixed-race upbringing, identity, and experience in the American South, as in James' McBride’s memoir, The Color of Water. So I’ve been thinking about how reading allowed me, from a young age, to experience others’ perspectives.

We know it shouldn’t take walking a mile in someone else’s shoes to acknowledge their humanity. And a lack of reading certainly is NOT an excuse for those men—often White, often straight—who predominantly inflict gun violence on society. But we also know that reading fiction does, without a doubt, foster more empathy (and more kindness to other humans!)…so if I for one am grateful to the many writers who’ve given me the opportunity to expand my own understanding.

What books have you read that have pushed you to expand your own horizons?