Connecting. Unequivocally

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Reading on steps

Photo by Garry Knight. Creative Commons license 2.0

I have a few happy memories of my childhood that involve my mom.

I never gave it much thought. I didn’t know I was supposed to have more. I knew only one way of how mothers and daughters worked. I didn’t know our way was not the norm.

Until one spring day a few years ago I had a meltdown.  Something pretty insignificant happened and I lost it. Started crying and couldn’t stop. I got in the car and I drove and drove through a heavy rain, sobbing loud and ugly, until I couldn’t breathe or see. I don’t cry, so this scared me, but it siphoned off…something. Temporarily.

Then it happened again a month later. I didn’t know I’d still been dragging my entrails through the dirt until my body said, “Enough!” I sought help…and got it.

So why am I scrawling this personal revelation on my blog? It’s because of a novel. By some accident (or not) of fate, I recently happened upon a 2007 book, Dirty by Megan Hart.** I recognized the main character Elle’s plight right away, and her mother, too. Reading Elle’s story made me tense with discomfort, made my own psychology bubble to the surface. Made me sick and worried. Not for me, but for Elle. I kept turning the pages to see if she’d be okay, and when Elle’s brother said she should see someone because “…Talking about it helps. Puts things in perspective. Proves I’m not crazy…” the truth of it stole my breath. I wanted to reach through the little electronic pad I read on and shake Elle, say “Listen to your brother! He knows!”

I was on edge about every decision Elle made, the sorts of so-called choices we daughters of difficult mothers make to establish a modicum of control over our own lives. I was completely, unequivocally engaged with her.

Some people say “write for yourself.” Not me. I  write in quest of a bond, a connection. Yes, for entertainment, too, but even then, the be-all, end-all is the emotional tie, creating deeper feelings, four dimensional reading experiences. Total immersion.

Books have so much power. As a reader, I want to be submerged. As a writer, I want to be your only source of oxygen.

I’ve read thousands of books, and still I’m surprised—and giddy—when it happens to me so thoroughly.

 

**Dirty is an erotic romance, not necessarily for every reader.

I’m Guilty…of Judging Book Covers

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Judgmental is a word I shy away from most of the time. A word fraught with a tremendous amount of rightly earned baggage. But I found myself in a conversation with other writers discussing “being judgmental.” As in, judging a book by its cover. *raises hand for guilty* Or judging a book without reading it based on it’s genre or reputation or things I’ve heard. To which I found myself replying…Yeah…so?

The conversation coincided with an interesting discussion on Absolute Write, the writer’s forum I frequent, about whether the genre Women’s Fiction  is sexist. After all, sub-categorizing it implies…something, because there is no genre called Men’s Fiction. My feeling is that having women’s fiction isn’t sexist on it’s own, but the way the term Women’s Fiction is used to separate certain categories of books, or to say “you’ll like this because it’s about women,” as if every woman’s life experience is roughly the same, or “you won’t like it because you’re a man,” certainly is sexist. But in all fairness, even though I’m writing romance, I admit that I do shy away from the books that are dubbed “Women’s Fiction.” Mostly because I’m not very much like a lot of women I know. I don’t have a close and loving relationship with my mother, I don’t have a core group of women friends with whom I share all, I’ve never gone on a girls weekend. I don’t relate to books that include those elements as cores of the storytelling. Beyond that, Women’s Fiction books tend to be a little too realistic for me. I read for escapism, plain and simple. So when it comes to reading, I judge. By the label or the cover. I know I miss out on some groundbreaking books, but, my God, I have to draw the line somewhere. I just can’t read every worthy book.

Which takes me back to the conversation with my writer friends. We have so many choices to make every single day. From what to eat for breakfast, to finding a way to afford the college your kid has gotten into. Small choices, huge choices. And in this vast spectrum are the What should I read? and Which movie should I watch? decisions. Not generally life altering ones, rather, the choices I’m making about my leisure time. And so I am judgmental, and I’m comfortable with that. I’ll judge whether to read a book (or watch a movie or TV show) by the cover or genre or word-of-mouth or review, without doing much more than a small amount of work to decide it. When it comes to books, often if the cover is pink and cutesy, I’m passing. Unfair, I know, but there it is.

We all have to make decisions about the most precious resource each of us have: our time. Without some shortcuts, we would spend our entire waking lives mulling those decisions, never getting to the action. I do regret that my decision on how I make my decisions might not sit right with everyone, might seem judgmental, but…well, it’s my decision.

 

(Oh, and by the way, the friend who would rather have us make more informed decisions about the books we read, to not be judgmental, wishes so out of the desire for us not to miss out on something wonderful, and I love her for it. I regret that I might be a disappointment to her.)

 

(Photo Attribution: By Jonathunder (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)