Hit or Miss–A reader’s perspective of authors’ messages
by Erin Saluta
I always tell people that my favorite food is anything I don’t have to cook myself. Going out to eat is always a fun experience because I’m not the one in the kitchen, but it can also be a scary one. Scary because I’m a vegetarian. So, when potatoes are prepared with chicken broth or the beans are cooked with ham or the chips are cooked in animal fat, it sometimes creates more time in the bathroom than I really like to spend.
So what does my dietary preference have to do with books and being a reader? Well when I go out to eat with new friends or acquaintances, I am often asked about my journey into vegetarianism, and that is all about a book.
In college, I took the best history course of my life. I was never very good at cracking open those enormous tomes of history throughout high school and, for me, history was always the boring class. That changed with this one college course (kudos to great teachers everywhere!!) because the instructor assigned seven novels that depicted American history through fictional characters living in that time by writers who were capturing their current history with their words.
Through exceptional time oriented pieces such as The Jungle by Upton Sinclair my view of history changed forever. As did my dietary preferences.
Since that moment, I can’t tell you how many individuals want to debate that changes have come about in the food processing industry and how the conditions depicted in The Jungle no longer exist. I have no problem with people telling me that, but for me, a book made a difference in my life and I respect that.
Words are powerful, and they are capable of making changes. I mean wouldn’t it be the same as saying that since times have changed since I read Rubyfruit Jungle, should I still be a lesbian? Heck yeah!!
I’m not one of those people to say I’m better because I’m a vegetarian or because I’m a lesbian (though the latter- that’s a given!) but what I am saying is that words have and do have powerful impacts on each of us. And it’s still happening!
Recently I read Anyone But You by KG MacGregor. I enjoy her romances and her skill as a storyteller. She’s good, one of my favorites, and when I pick up one of her stories, I know I’m going to enjoy myself while turning the pages. However, it wasn’t very far into this story that I realized I was learning something, and more importantly, I wanted to do something!
I wanted to make an impact on the world I live in by volunteering for the fictional program of Clean Energy Action Network. When I closed the cover (yes I still read paper!) of this sweet romance, I realized that yet another story was talking to me. But then I started really thinking about this amazing genre of LesFic that I now frequent on an almost daily basis and wondered about other books that have inspired me. Inspired others.
First though, think about that word- inspire.
It has multiple meanings. One being to breathe in, inhale. Another to influence, move or guide. What books have you breathed in so fully, been consumed with so utterly that there was barely room in your mind for anything else? I know that happened with Catherine M. Wilson’s series When Women Were Warriors and more recently with Fletcher DeLancey’s The Caphenon.
While reading those and for weeks after all I wanted to do was talk about ideas and interactions uncovered in these works to anyone who would listen. They filled my page loving soul to the brink! What about the books that have influenced you, moved you, guided you to actually do something about it? Made a change?
I’m sure I’m supposed to say that all my reading selections have that purpose- they all inspire me, but I’m wondering about the misses. As Sinclair wrote about his novel: I aimed for the public’s heart, And…hit it in the stomach.
Yes, I was supposed to be inspired by the socialist outcry so prevalent in The Jungle, and I was, but I was hit big time in the stomach. A hit that caused me to change. I would venture to say, though not confirmed, that MacGregor was doing what she does best with Anyone But You– providing her readers with a well written story featuring dynamic characters who give readers a chance to escape for several hours of reading pleasure.
Was it a miss to hit my conscious instead of just my romance loving heart? Did she intend to write a story that made a reader want to reach out to her community and participate in change or was that a bonus hit?
How about Susan X Meagher, do you think she expected a reader to sign up for the AIDS LifeCycle after reading the first in her series, I Found My Heart in San Francisco thinking that sounds like a fun adventure!? And then sign up for the next three years?
Would Jean Stewart be pleased that a reader thought about adopting a LGBT youth, after reading Emerald City Blues? A thought reconfirmed in Annameekee Hesik’s Driving Lessons. Or are these all good misses to stories of our LGBT history?
As a reader I’m wondering what other readers have been hit with “misses” and how they embraced them. Has a book caused a change in your life? Have you been inspired beyond the pages to do something or change something? Have you ever let the author know what they did to change your life? Just one curious reader loving how dynamic our LesFic authors really are.