A selection of must-reads by Kirsten Miller.
Books have this magical ability to transport us into worlds that are not our own. They have the power to move us from the mundane desk job to a spellbinding forest or a quaint village outside of a city we’ve never traversed. They allow us to feel seen, heard, and understood. They let us know that we are not alone—even in this.
Reading has always been a powerful form of escapism, but it feels even more relevant in the age of quarantine. As I sit alone in my apartment, yes, there are feelings of loneliness, but I’m also reminded that I can easily move into another world by merely flipping a page. So, during these unprecedented times, I’ve found myself turning page after page, escaping to worlds that are not my own, engaging in the principles and knowledge of writers who are thousands of miles away or hundreds of years apart, but whose words are no less poignant.
Maybe you too are hoping to find solace in a world that is not your own, or perhaps you’re hoping to be immersed in a conversation that makes you see the world in a different way, or maybe you’re longing to feel seen through the enigmatic words of a poem. I have felt each of these as I’ve waded through the hours, days, and weeks of quarantine, and this is what I’m reading to feed my soul.
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
This book had me spellbound from the first sentence, “Nobody ever warned me about mirrors, so for many years I was fond of them, and believed them to be trustworthy.” From there, I became absorbed by Oyeyemi’s magical retelling of the fairytale “Snow White,” which hinges on the structure of race in America, the politics of passing, and the cultural idea of beauty. The story of Boy Novak gripped me until the very end—if you’re looking for a book to get lost in, this is it.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Through a series of letters addressed to an anonymous reader, I became intimately acquainted with the ups and downs of 15-year-old Charlie as he tries to navigate the throes of high school. Not only did the book leave me reminiscing about high school, but it also brought me into deep thought about mental health and how our bodies protect us at certain times and open us up to heal at others. Perks reminded me that we all struggle with painful or traumatic things, but we don’t have to go through them alone.
Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall
I picked up this book knowing that it would forever change me and the way I think—not unlike Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me (side note: if you haven’t read this one, you should!). Through her prose, Mikki Kendall exposes the egregious blind spots of the feminist movement and gave me a better understanding of how to fight for the rights of all women, not just the ones who look like me. To gain equality for all, some of us, myself included, will have to swallow some difficult truths—this may be inconvenient and uncomfortable, but this is precisely what it takes to stand in solidarity and to listen to the voices of the women who have been oppressed by a movement that should’ve been helping them all along.
I feel like I dogeared nearly every page of this book. It was exactly what I needed in the moments of despair and uncertainty that sometimes feel like they might swallow me whole. Anne Lamott gets it, and instead of running from it or sugarcoating it, she embraces it. Like when she says, “Every day we’re in the grip of the impossible conundrum: the truth that it’s over in a blink, and we may be near the end, and that we have to live as if it’s going to be okay, no matter what.” Lamott reminded me that life is hard and it will inevitably be filled with things that cause us immense anguish, but joy will surprise us, even in the midst of this.
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