It’s book day, people! And I’d like to bring you a special World Book Day edition of Liane’s Morning Talks in the Mirror, which is what I call it when I talk to you and myself about myself! Today I want to tell you about the books that had a special influence on me.
Books are stories. Experiences that can connect us to each other: across borders, cultures and languages. Stories foster understanding and kindness.
Have you ever read a book written by someone who doesn’t look like you? Who comes from a different place and culture? Who doesn’t have the same abilities as you? Or opportunities?
Here are some ideas from some of the stories I liked. Reading these books changed my perspective, they expanded my worldview, helped me with my own ignorance, with discovering my identity, and recognizing the worth of multiple cultures and experiences. They touched my soul, and I hope they can touch yours.
I invite you to read these books, and then tell me what you think. I also want to hear about some of your beloved books.
Fantasy queer characters. By a queer author. For everyone.
SHE WHO BECAME THE SUNby Shelley Parker-Chan
Shelley is awesome. This story is a reimagining, as they say, of the rise of the founding emperor of the Ming dynasty. For me, it was so much more. I’m so used to reading cis Western literature, with all its gender roles and expected life battles. This book was a refreshing shift from that. It was about gender identity, with a non-binary character changing the world.
I grew up with books, in a small house, without a TV and an entire philosophy about education through stories and art. All praise to my mom! Thanks to her, I’ve read a lot (at least I think so).
SHE WHO BECAME THE SUN went straight into my veins, and carried its story to my heart and my mind. I didn’t know I needed it. But I did. It’s not just a retelling. “I refuse to be nothing”, the human said. And the journey, the power within saves the world. That’s who I identified with, and it’s up to me to make a change in the world.
Read the book. Queer power at its best.
Trans magic and wicked life stories!
A NATURAL HISTORY OF TRANSITIONby Callum Angus
Callum Angus helped me to see transition. His short stories are fun and wicked, and so beautiful. I’d recommend this collection to be studied in school as a guide on how to be a good human being and start any conversation with an approach of understanding.
I’m a trekkie. You know, a Star Trek fan. And back in the day, when I watched Deep Space 9 for the first time, I fell in love with Jadzia Dax. Let me refresh your memory.
In Star Trek, there is a humanoid species native to the planet Trill – the Trills. Dax is a symbiont, and it lives inside Trill humanoid hosts. It lives throughout centuries, moving from one host to the next. With consent. The symbiont doesn’t have a gender, and it retains all the lives and memories of its hosts. When moving to another host, they become one sharing together hundreds of years of knowledge and experiences. This was the first time I was seeing and learning about gender identity. I didn’t understand much then as a kid, but I do know.
We’re not just one thing. And Callum’s peculiar stories made me feel that. Mentally, emotionally, physically, sexually – we’re in constant motion and change.
Read the book, and let’s morph ourselves into kinder beings.
Igbo cosmology, multiple selves and what’s reality in reality?
FRESHWATERby Akwaeke Emezi
Akwaeke is an experience. They told a story about me, and about so many others. Their book is woven in the Igbo culture, which I hadn’t heard about before reading Freshwater. There’s so much to learn from each other in this world! “I am a village full of faces and a compound full of bones, translucent thousands”, says the main character in the book. It’s a story about the possibility of being more than one singular thing, having more than one identity, more than one reality.
I was born in Eastern Europe. I knew nothing of southeastern Nigerian traditions and beliefs. While growing up, I learned Europe is the center of the universe. I knew every country and its capital by heart. And I referred to Africa as a single entity. I learned about the old Egyptian gods and Ra was governing the whole African continent. I was ignorant, and lived in my own bubble.
Then I went out. I started traveling and reading more diverse books. And then it clicked. I am not the center of the universe, and that’s a good thing. We all are.
I felt connected to Akwaeke’s book, questioning my reality that I have built for myself.
Read the book. Be your favorite self. Or selves.
Tragedy doesn’t make you stronger: you make yourself stronger
GIRL AT WARby Sara Nović
You make yourself stronger. Yes, you do. And it would be so beautiful to live in a world where we wouldn’t need to make ourselves stronger.
Sara Nović wrote a story about a little girl’s experience of going through a war. It’s set in the former Yugoslavia. And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a quick history and geography lesson.
It’s in the Balkans. Balkans are in southeast Europe. Now there are seven countries that once were all called Yugoslavia together: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, and Slovenia. They started splitting up in the early 1990. Over a hundred thousand people died during the Yugoslav Wars.
The little girl in Nović’s story survives. And there are people who survived, but never lived. This book is even more relevant to read now with the events in Eastern Europe. My family is from Ukraine, and I don’t know how many of them will live.
I’m always looking to read diverse authors. They have to fight so much harder to get their words out there, to make their voice heard. Sara Nović is a deaf writer. She is inspirational and I’m reading their stories to learn.
Read the book. You need to learn more to understand better.
Romanian story because I’m Romanian.
The Sixty-Year-Old Woman and the Young Manby Nora Iuga
Now you know. I’m Romanian. I mean, I’m many things, and I come from different cultures and countries. And when I have to choose my nationality – I’m Romanian. Even though I still find it so much funnier to say I’m Martian. I actually believe I am (story for another time!).
I’ve been reading Romanian writers since I was in kindergarten. Similar to the rest of Europe, Romanian literature is full of young, cis male authors. Some of them are good. Some of them are just men.
And then there is Nora Iuga. She is one of the most interesting and unique writers I’ve had the privilege to read. She is over 80 years old and her story The Sixty-Year-Old Woman and The Young Man is about eroticism, love, and death. Forget all the stereotypes, all the rules you have learned about love and relationships. Storytelling as a sensual path to seduction and intimacy. We tend to forget that people over 30 years old can love or write about affection and attraction.
Read the book. Get out of your own head and explore.
And in conclusion…
Read books, humans. From all over the world, from different people, from beautiful cultures. Stories forge connections and discovery. Building bridges, embracing people and gathering everyone together is one of Amara’s missions. We want to make the world a better place – an accessible and inclusive space for all humans (and aliens later on!), where you feel you belong.
What book should I read next? Send recommendations my way – from your people and communities. I want to learn more, I want to understand more deeply, and I need your help. Share your knowledge.
And if you want to help us at Amara with our accessibility efforts, reach out!