Posted on April 14, 2017

#FellowshipofWords In History

As you may know, I declared this the #FellowshipofWords year, and I’m exploring how words and books can bring us together. (See my first blog post on this topic at http://tinyurl.com/jtjpamr.)

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how words have brought us together throughout history. I had the opportunity to judge for our local National History Day competition, and read papers about people taking a stand on important issues from women’s rights to tribal violence. I know of other examples as well, thanks to PBS (public broadcasting TV) and some of my own reading. Words can help us feel empathy and lead to changes in the way we see each other. Here are a few book examples from different points in history, to give you some food for thought:

I’ve often heard the anecdote about President Lincoln greeting Harriet Beecher Stowe with “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass brought the horrors of slavery to light and made white readers realize that blacks were people just like them.

Jumping forward in time, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath illuminated the poverty of the Great Depression. It created empathy for the refugees of the Dust Bowl and led to reforms.

Outside the U. S., Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe showed us the impact of colonial policies in Africa. Readers better understood Nigerian history, and saw how people respond to change in universal ways.

As we keep telling stories and finding connections to other people, we find that we have more in common than we have differences. Authors can play an important role in this process.

May our reading bring us closer to our fellow human beings. Do you have any examples to share?

One Response

  1. Here’s another angle on this: literature that bears witness, from Literary Hub http://lithub.com/from-mukasonga-to-alexievich-we-need-writers-who-bear-witness/

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