A book can change your life

The title of this post might be overly dramatic, but if you look hard enough you will find some pretty incredible stories about people whose lives were changed by books and reading.

One of those amazing stories comes from YA author Matt de la Peña, whose piece this week in NPR is well worth your time. He touches on so many moments in his own life that were altered by books, and then when he goes into talking about his dad and how his life was changed by reading, well, I was in tears by that point so that tells you what kind of piece this is. In simple prose, he taps into why words and books and reading matter, and how the power of the written word can literally change your life. And I believe almost always for the better.

A love of reading doesn’t have to start early, either. Matt’s life-changing moment came in his second year of college. And you know what else I love about this article? That teacher. That amazing teacher who saw something in this young man and knew he had potential and needed a nudge so she gave him a copy of The Color Purple and asked him to read it before he graduated and then come talk with her about it.

I’m sorry for the way things go for Joshua, a tough young kid profiled here with a secret writing habit, and I hope that de la Peña or someone else can help him find his way through his writing, and through books. When I read pieces like this, it’s so validating to think that the work that we are all doing can make a difference, and in some cases, all the difference.

Do you have any stories to share about how a book changed your life, or the life of someone you know? Please share. And pass this article on too. It’s a great read, and an inspiring one.

3 Responses to A book can change your life

  1. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    Hmmm… I respectfully acknowledge the whole theme of this post, but I’m still on the side of giving kids a wild ride on the rollercoaster and then having them realize later it really moved them. I suppose from a query/submission standpoint that having an adult reader in tears is probably a good strategy, but kids aren’t likely to think this is Thrill City, Arizona if you take that tactic too far. The project I’m floating around now tends to succeed in both areas, although in spite of the serious overtones a lot of agents who are still carrying a torch for Cullen & Bryant tend to get very upset when the heroine’s crush goes down in the last reel. Still and all, I like to keep the Serious Life Lesson stuff covert and indirect as much as I can. If you’re working the high concept part of the realistic street, you’ve got to employ a certain amount of stealth tech if you want to make a lasting impression on your readers…

  2. Lynn says:

    Stacey, thank you so much for this link. What a beautiful example of the power of the written word. After all, what would words be if they didn’t evoke some sort of emotion? To be able to bring someone to tears or laughter, to give someone hope where there was none, or simply a reprieve, an escape, from the quotidian is what most writers strive for.

    As a Mexican-American kid, Matt de la Peña’s life was a far cry from my own. My father grew up in a rough machista neighborhood as well, but it didn’t stop him from appreciating the arts. He passed along his love of music, art, and literature to each of his children. One of my fondest memories are the Saturday afternoons when my father would take me and my siblings to the public library to check out books. The car ride was always noisy going, but quiet coming home as each of us was engrossed in our treasures. I’m sure it was a wonderful time for my mother as well. A few hours at home of peace and quiet.

    I sincerely hope that Joshua finds his way. With Matt’s book, he has a way of reaching out to him and maybe one day he will. Perhaps not now, but some day when the time is right.

  3. Craig Wells says:

    I grew up in an abusive environment. Fear raged in the mind like nightmares day and night. I had a tiny dark bedroom with one tiny window that was blocked by a dusty Hibiscus bush. The room had once been our family’s den. In it were bookshelves where my father stuck his books. It was the fifties in Southern California. Cheap mass market paperbacks included GRAPES OF WRATH and GOD’S LITTLE ACRE and FAREWELL TO ARMS and my favorite, an abridged copy of CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. I read them all and many more. They were not just an escape. They were like my best friend who kept me company in the trenches. Who consoled me and made me laugh. They helped me to be compassionate and soulful. They kept me from being racist and spiritless like my family was. Just writing this, I can smell those books and feel their pages and how they were the sun to my soul during all those sleepless nights. It makes me want to cry. Today, whenever I walk by an Hibiscus flower, brilliantly yellow or red, I smile, I understand, I wish I could write a book as beautiful.

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