Somehow, the events in Orlando made me mute. Maybe it’s that I was feeling so wrung out by the emotional roller-coaster I’ve been riding for the past two weeks
months years, or maybe it’s that I am so weary of the ways in which we humans are so very horrible to each other, but I just felt that there was nothing meaningful for me to say.
And then I read these words from Jen Hatmaker about what it does to those who are terrorized by violence in their community when those of who are not in it say nothing:
“What my black friends taught me is that the ancillary offense, where grief is compounded and loneliness sets in, is when their friends and colleagues outside of their tribe say NOTHING. When their churches don’t stop and grieve. When their coworkers are silent. When their neighbors look the other way because they aren’t sure what to say, so they say nothing.”
And so, I wrote something abouton Facebook. It still didn’t feel like enough, but it was something. I still felt demoralized and beat down and just so very, very sad–and as if words are not enough in the face of these incidents which I feel myself becoming numb to.
That feeling intensified when I watched this clip from Stephen Colbert, who reminds us that love is a verb.
I wanted to DO something, but I didn’t know what.
As is so often the case, I got my answer from a librarian. Librarian Arika, to be specific. Librarian Arika reminded me of one of my bedrock beliefs–that stories have the power to save lives. That words matter.
(It is easy to lose faith in the face of horrible, bewildering events.)
Arika reminded me that when it comes to building acceptance of humankind, “literature can help.” She wondered,
“What if it was as simple as this: commit to read, promote, share, and purchase books that promote tolerance of race, gender, identity, religion, ability, and sexual orientation.”
And suddenly I knew what I could do–the thing that is my thing to do. I can join Arika’s movement (#BooksBuildTolerance). For the rest of the month, she is sharing one book a day that promotes tolerance and understanding.
I’m starting with a book I read last month that I adore: George by Alex Gino.
From the publisher:
When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.
George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part… because she’s a boy.
With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte — but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.
So, that’s what it’s about. I love this book not because it’s about a girl who is a boy, but because it is a tender, true, and important story about being human–which means being vulnerable, and scared, and brave, and bold. The characters are so real, from George/Melissa’s teen-age brother to their loving-but-not-completely-accepting mom. (“I always knew you were gay,” she says, “but not that kind of gay.”)
I love this book not because it is ground-breaking (though it is that) but because it is good writing. It’s not a book I chose for our elementary libraries because we needed a transgender book; I chose it because it’s a book any child who has ever felt different in some way could relate to. (And because it’s a transgender book and we have children in our schools who are struggling with that particular issue and they need to read a story in which they see themselves. And their cisgender friends need to see them in books, too. But first because it’s just a great book.)
This is not a very compelling review because I don’t have a copy with me and I’m tired and it’s late, but I think that doesn’t much matter.
Sometimes we’ve got to just do the best we can–because love is a verb and it’s important not only to not say nothing, but also to not do nothing. If you haven’t read George, check it out.