Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Wake of Charlottesville

image courtesy of pixabay, pexels

            Let’s get one thing out of the way right from the get-go: I do not write political posts. I do not post anything political on any social media platform. And in a way, what I’m about to write really isn’t political; rather, it’s a statement of my beliefs about humans, having nothing to do with either or any political party.

            The recent events that unfolded in Charlottesville, Virginia, following a despicable display of hatred, bigotry, and ignorance were, simply put, abominable. I grieve for the family of the woman who lost her life and for the people, like me, who felt a deep sadness and icy dread when they saw the images of the people carrying torches through the darkened campus of the University of Virginia and the streets of Charlottesville.

            The entire incident ignited in me a desire—no, a need—to spend some time in the shoes of people who may not look like me, who may not think like me, who may experience life in ways that are different from the ways in which I experience life. And I’m not talking here about racial differences alone. I’m talking about any differences, whether they be racial, religious, social, economic, educational, or generational.

image courtesy of pixabay, maxlkt

I don’t pretend that I’m suddenly going to understand what it’s like to be anything other than a white woman of early middle-age with a college education living in New Jersey, but I mean to try. And I’m a writer, so what better way to spend time in other people’s shoes than in books?

With that in mind, I’ve done some research into books that deal head-on with issues of separation: things and ideas that separate individuals, that separate people who practice different religions, that separate individuals from society. And I want to share a short list of books that I think might be a good place to start in bridging the gaps that exist in our communities. Some of the books I’ve already read, but I intend to read them again with a renewed intensity and a renewed urgency.   

We have to stop the hatred.

1.      And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts
2.      Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
3.      Cinderland by Amy Jo Burns
4.      Generation M by Shelina Janmohamed
5.      God is Not One by Stephan R. Prothero
6.      I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim by Maria M. Ebrahimji and Zahra T Suratwala, et al.
7.      The Short and Tragic Life of RobertPeace by Jeff Hobbs
8.      Somewhere Towards theEnd: A Memoir by Diana Athill
9.      To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
10.  White Like Me by Tim Wise
11.  Wonder by R.J. Palacio

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a good start. If nothing else, it’s at least one good thing that came out of Charlottesville. It’s not what happened in the “wake” of Charlottesville, but what happened in the “wake-up” of Charlottesville. A wake-up call to understand “the other,” whomever that may be to each of us. I hope you’ll join me, and I hope you’ll add your reading suggestions to the comments below.


Charles Gramlich said...

Some good works on that list. I certainly haven't read them all though.

Amy Reade said...

Thanks, Charles. I haven't either, but I intend to.

Sharon Aguanno said...

Beautifully said, thank you!

Ritter Ames said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ritter Ames said...

Definitely a few titles that sound interesting. Thanks for the nudge and the list, Amy. Recently, I've been musing anyway about how books that hit me so hard when I first read them when I was young now tend to put me into a ruminative mood instead--and books I just couldn't get into when I was younger are now favorites of mine with a reread in middle age. That's made me think about how difficult it can be to reach specific audiences as a writer, since I've found my own reading tastes and interpretations changing with naturity and life experiences (and getting just a little wiser about all things). Love this idea about opening new understanding through reading. Not a new idea, I know, but definitely one that should be promoted often :) Thanks for posting this!

Amy Reade said...

Thank you, Sharon! Hope all is well with you and your family in TX today.

Amy Reade said...

Hi Ritter, you're right. There are several books on the list that I've read, and one or two that I've read more than once. But each time I read a book I tend to find things I missed and now that I'm older I think I have the ability to understand what the books are saying on a different level. I look forward to reading these books with new eyes.

Linda Thorne said...

Very good, Amy!!!! I like this. I sometimes feel like I'm on a battlefield on Facebook trying to avoid the religious denominations and all the political infighting. I don't want to alienate friends yet I don't want my experience on Facebook to be about this. I see enough on T.V. to last a lifetime. Also, I have friends on all sides of the political and religious arena. I'm not going to chance offending any of them because I don't think that's my place, EXCEPT. . . Yes, there's an exception. Friends of mine will not be friends long if they are racists. When I was younger, it was "out in the open." I hated it then.

Maggie King said...

Amy, Thanks for this beautifully written post and for the reading list. I still can't wrap my head around this tragedy. It's especially poignant to me because I lived in Cville for 6 years and can visualize exactly where everything took place. Someone said that history is cyclical, not linear, and we seem to be re-living events from the past that I'd just as soon stay in the past.

I try to avoid politics on Facebook because I don't want to get into arguments, but I'm more open on Twitter (for some reason I feel more comfortable there, perhaps because everything moves so fast). I want to find a way to use all that's going on in my writing.

Amy Reade said...

James Milson on Facebook pointed me to this beautiful poem, which I think perfectly illustrates the theme of this post.

Amy Reade said...

Linda, I also try to stay away from anything political/religious/controversial on FB because I simply don't want to be involved and when I'm ready to give someone my opinion I'll do it in private. I agree that we can't tolerate racism online or anywhere else. It's ugly, hateful, and ruinous.

Maggie, I knew you lived in Charlottesville at one time. I imagine that makes the events there just a little more personal for you. I keep thinking that we're not learning from history's mistakes. There's so much fertile ground there for writing.

Thanks to both of you for adding your thoughts.

P. J. Mann said...

Thank you very much for sharing this and bringing to light very important issues. This is not about politics, but common sense. What happened in Charlottesville deserves voices like yours, because there are chapters of human history that are not supposed to be repeated.

Liane Spicer said...

Thank you for this list, Amy. I've read only two and there are several others I'd like to read. As PJ Mann said, certain chapters of history must not be repeated. It's up to the right-thinking majority to actively combat the forces of hatred that have been energized and authenticated.

Mollie Blake said...

I think this has been written with a great balance of sensitivity and call to action. I was recently asked which book I thought everyone should read, and my answer was "To Kill A Mockingbird." It is sad that we still have to think like this, but it shows our resilience to fight against all prejudice and to strive for what is right and just - equality. We are all human. I'm from the UK and confess to not having a great understanding of the background to the situation in CV, but I do understand humanity, compassion and the right to live. The book list is a great idea. Thanks for sharing, Amy x

Jewel Amethyst said...

I've only read one on the list, but I should read a few more. I lived in Charlottesville for seven years and it has always been a peaceful, open minded, if pretentious, town. Racial tensions were never out and open and in your face, but they were there in a very subtle way. What we saw recently was something I never thought I would see in that area.