Take a look at the wish I made at the beginning of 2021:
There’s a book I want to read this year.
I don’t yet know what that book is.
But it’s amazing and beautiful and sweeps me off my feet.
This is my bookish wish for 2021:
That I find the absolute most perfect book for me. That I read a book that takes my breath away. That I read a book I just can’t put down at all. That I read a book that takes me into it’s world, body and soul. That I read a book with characters I fall head over heels in love with. That I read a book with a story that leaves me breathless. That I read a book where the moments in between are made of spun glass and gold. That I read a book that flows from the first word to the very last. That I read a book that lives and breathes.
Perhaps a bit of a daunting challenge, and maybe a bit of a dare to every book and author out there. But I still have my fingers crossed for that one perfect book. The book that I more than just loved and was blown away by.
I want a book that reads like my heart, whatever my heart is.
Maybe it’s a little crazy. But I like crazy. I always hope that the book I pick up, every time it’s time to start a new story, will be the one that just completely wins over my reading heart. There’s a thread in me that fears I’ll be put off of reading if I find that one perfect book, but, the question is, if I found one, couldn’t there be another one? And wouldn’t that just be the most beautiful thing in the world? To be surrounded by all the books that swept me off my feet?
There’s a book I’m hoping to find this year.
I’m hoping to find it.
And that, my friends, was the wish I put out there in the world in January. Did I forget about my wish in the middle of the year? Well, yes, I did. Because I had such a hard time finding that book of gold.
But, the question is: Did I find that book?
Yes. I absolutely did.
I went into 2021 looking for a book that would read like my heart, whatever my heart was. I wasn’t even sure what my heart was back at the beginning of the year, so reading was as much finding that book and finding a piece of myself. See, I went into 2021 feeling a little lost and overwhelmed, as I’m sure many did. While life has improved in many ways, there’s still the threat of tiny little things hovering in the air that keeps the fear in my heart. This year, I needed a book that would show me the way again.
Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers came very, very close. It spoke to me. Oh, it spoke to me. But it only spoke to me in that moment, when I really needed it and it’s words. That was a difficult time for me, but, as all moments do, it passed. And I was back at Square One.
Weeks passed. Months passed. Things were looking a bit bleak by the time October rolled around, I had stopped taking review requests because I’m just so overwhelmed with my personal life right now, and nothing was really plucking the strings of my heart.
And then one of my favorite writer bloggers released their first novel and I was given the opportunity to review it. I didn’t know it while I was enjoying the story, but Merry Arlan: Breaking The Curse by Will Soulsby-McCreath fulfilled my wish. Was it perfect? Well, no. Has it stuck with me? Oh, yes. Did it speak to my heart and soul? Oh, so much.
I read this book back in October. It’s stuck with me every day since. I hardly go a day without thinking about it, without feeling in some way obsessed with it. Not only does Will post short stories and flash fiction on their blog Nopoodles and not only do I gobble them up as soon as I see them, but there’s just so much humor and acceptance that my heart literally aches for the worlds they create. The world of Merry Arlan was designed to be accepting and inclusive while still a work in progress. Was there still some prejudice? Of course. But in so many other ways I do believe this has been the most inclusive and accepting read I’ve ever enjoyed. I wanted to cry with how accepting this world is.
And that kept me thinking, my mind doing loops, going in and out of fear, but knowing it was exactly what my heart needed to do. This book is changing the way I want to live, the way I want to read. I feel angrier than before at injustices, at prejudice, at stereotypes, at labeling someone as “other” and then thinking it’s completely okay to attack them in all ways.
As a primarily science fiction and fantasy reader, I encounter worlds and societies that tend to be on the more open and diverse side. There are more and more main and side characters who are different from the norm. I’ve grown so accustomed to them that I expect that kind of world in real life. Well, real life has only disappointed me over and over again. Our society is nowhere near what it is in the books. I often feel stopped in my tracks when I realize the love and acceptance I just read in a book is nowhere to be found in real life.
Is it art imitates life or life imitates art? I don’t really know, but, whenever I think of the difference between life and books, that question rattles in my head, almost begging me to do something about it.
So, here it is. This is how Merry is transforming me and what I read.
I love diversity. I went to a diverse school for 8 years of my childhood. I attended an incredibly diverse college. I grew up in a large, diverse family even though I can only call myself Chinese. I spent all of my formative years simply loving and accepting people different from me, understanding they’re different and that difference is beautiful (and often delicious). It also helped that my mom’s backyard was basically West Hollywood when she was growing up, so nothing fazed her and accepting them for who and what they are was just normal.
I want more diversity in the books I read. But, more than that, I want to go a step further. I want to read the books that embrace the diversity, all kinds of diversity in every way imaginable, and take that step into acceptance. I want books that both celebrate all the ways we’re different from each other and don’t linger on it. As people, we’re so much more than just our ethnicity, sexuality, mental health status, abilities, race, gender, etc. We’re people who can be shy, loud and outspoken, busy little bees and slow and lingering, creative, practical, friendly, distrustful, loving, silly, graceful, klutzy, fearful, and so much more. But the point is that, no matter what we are, there’s still a who we are. I want the books that acknowledge the differences between us in terms of the former and fully embrace them with love, but also choose to focus on the who we are than what we are. Personally, I don’t want the fact that I’m Asian to override the fact that I love being industrious. Not every Asian is industrious, but I am and always have been. That’s a part of what makes me me outside of my ethnicity. If I wrote a story about myself, I’d be focusing on who I am instead of what I am. So, I want books like that.
Does that make sense? I’m ready for life to just embrace all those what things that make us different and can turn to look at the core of who we are as individuals to create stories we might not even know exist yet because we’re so busy just working on asking everyone to accept what we are. Personally, I’m just so ready for that next step.
If life imitates art, why not focus on the art, the books, that show us what we can be as a society when we choose to embrace those who are different and can look past it to find the person underneath?
Some months ago, my 7 year old son was learning about Amelia Earhart. His teacher was trying to get him to notice the thing that made her remarkable was that she was the first female to attempt to fly around the world. My son instead thought the fact that she was trying to fly around the world was what made her remarkable. In his mind, why focus on her being a woman instead of her trying to do this incredible thing? I think the fact that anyone was brave enough to fly around the world before the time of the planes we have today was pretty incredible to him. I do want my kids to focus on who a person is and what their deeds say about them rather than the way they look. The world isn’t ready for it, but I’m ready for a place where our differences are celebrated and embraced and the books my kids will enjoy one day showcase diverse worlds full of acceptance and inclusion and that can turn to the things that make us us without having to focus on the what we are.
Honestly, I’m not sure if this even makes sense, but I want Merry’s world, I want the world where it’s okay for us to be what we are. Everyone has so much to offer, if only we would look past that what.
This brings me to my goal for next year.
I want to read more books with more diversity. I want that diversity to just be a fact of the world. I want there to be acceptance, inclusion, and celebration. And I want stories that focus on the characters and who they are as people/creatures/etc. instead of what they are.
Yes, I realize the what is also a part of the who. Being Chinese drives a lot of who I am. I just want books that don’t have characters who look down on or say horrible things about or do terrible things to people who are different (the unfavored gender in the world, lgbtq, neurodivergent, of a different and lesser race/ethnicty, etc.). I want the essence of the character to shine through because all these things our society as a whole usually deems unacceptable is now accepted so it doesn’t have to be the focus.
I want books to reflect that beautiful, open, loving, accepting, inclusive world I dream of. I want deeds and ideas and abilities and more to be the focus within these beautiful diverse worlds. Because I want that for my kids. My kids are mixed. They’re still young, so I have no idea who or what they’ll grow into, but I want all that they are to be loved and accepted by all. If life imitates art, then I want the art I read and the art they’re exposed to to reflect that.
If you made it all the way through this probably garbled mess, thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. And if you’ve actually understood what I was trying to write and express, well, you have no idea how relieved I am. But I’ll be revisiting this in January as I spend the next couple of weeks ruminating on what I want to read next year and what my bookish wish of 2022 will be.
With that, I’ll say Merry Arlan: Breaking The Curse by Will Soulsby-McCreath is both my favorite overall read of 2021 and it fulfilled my bookish wish. Thank you so much, Will, for a book that sparked my heart to hunger for more.