As an avid reader, I entered eighth grade with most of the language arts curriculum already read. Luckily for me, I had a teacher and a librarian who recognized the fact that I was a self-motivated learner. So, while the rest of the class read The Diary of a Young Girl, I went to the library and read The Giver.
What I loved about this exercise was reading these books in tandem. In order to skip class, I wrote a paper on totalitarianism in relation to both books. This was the first time I remember pairing books to create a deeper level of thinking. It changed the way I viewed reading and learning.
The Giver was also the book that helped me think critically about the government. It was one of the first dystopian novels I remember reading and I realized that, without political awareness, governments can become unsafe. I don’t remember thinking that this could actually happen in America but I do remember realizing that political involvement was nonnegotiable.
I know a lot of people compare our current political climate to dystopian novels and there are many days I completely understand. But I think the bigger reminder for me in this is to read books that stretch your thinking. Read stories with characters that make you uncomfortable. Read novels and memoirs and essays that help push back against your own status quo.
While The Giver is a fairly entry-level dystopian novel, I’m thankful for my teacher who put it in my hands and trusted me to make connections beyond the text. (Though, I’ve heard recently that it’s actually the first in a series. I may need to go back and read the others.) Now, I look at my reading habits and I’m often reading companion books that give me multifaceted views on a variety of topics. Because of that experience, I’ve learned to push my thinking and use books as a way to keep me on my toes and thinking critically.
What books helped you become more politically aware? Do you read to push your thinking?
This post is Day 8 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. You can find the entire series over at my A Literary Life page. Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.