Reading in a Time of ‘Alternative Facts’

I’m a firm believer that a well-read mind is one of the most revolutionary weapons a person can own. Leaping through the pages of works written by James Baldwin, W.E.B. Du Bois, Joyce Carol Oates, Dostoyevsky, and Assata Shakur, or, more recently, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Marc Lamont Hill, and Roxane Gay, my fellow readers and I can accomplish the following two immense undertakings that can impact a resistance.


First, we can open up our world beyond our various geographic constraints — no steep transatlantic plane ticket required. Second, we can connect with our past, present, and future, as well as all the beautifully diverse thought processes that exist outside our respective bubbles.


Baldwin said it best when he famously pointed out that it’s human nature to believe your personal pain, heartbreak, and life in general is unprecedented in the history of the world — that is, until you pick up a book. “It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive,” Baldwin mused in a May 1963 interview with the now-defunct LIFE magazine.


Deep readers and thought-seekers alike begin to see the cyclical nature of human history and how everything is interconnected. Specifically relevant to our current political climate, however, is British author, George Orwell’s 1984. 1984, the political fiction-infused dystopian novel, offers a poignant look at society in political strife, continual warfare, and protagonists hellbent on presenting their own version of the truth through newspapers and media companies. One could say that’s similar, ahem, to Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts.” Sound vaguely familiar? We’re not surprised.


Whether reading makes you feel less alone, more prepared, or more propelled into action in the resistance, your emotions are valid. Keep your brain sharp by trekking to your local library and snagging a freshly-laminated library card — the future generation and your own mind will thank you. 


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