I read to understand. I have, ever since I was young. This past year, I changed what I read. It was deliberate but I did not know what it would do to me. I read fiction and nonfiction, science fiction and history, all written from perspectives that I have never explored before. I paid deep and sustained attention. And I read a lot.
I’m still reading because when you read enough, you realize how little you’ve understood, how much you have yet to learn, how much you have not let in by either neglect or design.
I learned that although an author writing about experiences other than their own can be profound and can blaze a path to empathy, it also means they might misinterpret, might focus on the trauma while completely missing the triumph. I don’t want authors to stop writing from perspectives other than their own. I want readers to start reading from perspectives other than their own. Starting with me.
I have always read widely, but I didn’t understand until this year that something is lost when you don’t read stories from authors who have deep connections to or lived experience of their subject matter. I didn’t realize that it is possible, when you’ve read enough, to become aware of what parts of the story are missing and that certain choices get made, usually unintentional yet no less impactful to a story’s ultimate meaning.
I changed what I read this year and it changed me—as a reader and a person. I understand more, yes, but in the end, the most profound effect is that I care more about what and who is missing from the narrative.
–Eileen Bobek, owner of Rebel Heart Books, Jacksonville, OR
For some deep reading suggestions, browse Rebel Heart’s book lists on Bookshop.org. Did you change what you read in 2020? Are you planning to try something new with your reading in 2021?