Banned Books Week: Writing to Reflect Life

I grew up an only child in a house with parents who did not read books. Sometimes I think I was lucky. Books were seen as benign entertainment and indeed, they were my constant companions. I was free to read anything I wanted, first from the library and later, purchased with my allowance money from the bookstore. My view of the world, of relationships, humanity, came in large part from books.

For example, Ray Bradbury’s 1984 taught me the importance of personal freedom and that books were precious, Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange shocked me with its violence but then forced me to question the punishment given the offender. In James Leo Herlihy and William Noble’s Blue Denim, I saw how difficult it was for teenagers to deal with an unwanted pregnancy on their own and the importance of parents continually engaged in the lives of their kids. And then there was Shel Silverstein’s The Giving we have the right to be selfish just because someone is willing to continually give of themselves?

Each book taught me to think, to question. What if I hadn’t been able to read any of them?

I am an author. When I began writing fiction, I spent a lot of time thinking about how – and if – I should include cuss words, violent acts and sexually romantic relationships, even if they moved the story along. It made me crazy and deadened my writing. Then I read a line in On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner: “...we measure fictional worlds against the real world.” Good books feel real. They reflect the amazingly rich life that surrounds us in all its beauty and ugliness. It may be that some profanity or a sexual encounter represents a truer example of life than if they were left out.

The thing one knows what it is in a book – which passage or chapter – will provide just the right insight into life that someone wants or needs, perhaps even months or years later. So read! Read everything you can. Laugh, cry, gasp, swoon, throw the book against the wall. When you hold a book in your hand, anything is possible.

Marianne D. Wallace is a published non-fiction writer currently working on young adult and children’s fiction. You can find her on twitter as @penwallace