By Eleanor Shelton
Originally posted October 9, 2019
Do you remember a year or more ago when a dress that some said was blue and black others said was white and gold? Or how about those tennis shoes that looked pink to some and grey to others? It’s kind of freaky if you think about how we can see one thing and assume that we are right and others are wrong.
But those others are our friends, colleagues, family. How can we share the same political beliefs, worldview, and sense of social justice, and yet when a pair of sneakers is clearly pink, how can they see them as silver? It’s frankly disturbing!
I remember arguing in a car full of people who saw the sneakers as silver. I was the only hold out for pink. I felt righteous indignation until I wondered if it was a good thing that we didn’t see things in the same light (admittedly, it was a thought that took a while to mature). I could change my point of view about those sneakers and that darned dress.
Not that I see the colors wrong, but that if we see things differently, our world is full of opportunity for a different dialogue.
It’s the same with literature. What I love to read or write isn’t what my friend enjoys. My closest friend gobbles up sci-fi and especially vampire stories. Dystopian delights can put her on the couch reading all day. For me, mysteries and thrillers with exciting characters are what keeps me from participating in life.
While I don’t understand the lure of new and different worlds, I can appreciate that something grips her so hard that the rest of the everyday life falls away into annoying background noise.
As 2019 is about to become 2020, I saw a list of the decade’s most influential books. One of those books on the list is The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obrecht. I had just checked it out of the library by coincidence and was thinking hard about not finishing it.
It wasn’t gripping me. But then I saw it on that list. Damn! Was I giving up on a book that was one of the best of the decade? Others saw it as excellent, I felt the story was too slow to develop.
But as writers and readers, we grow and change. Life gives us new perspectives that are reflected in the way we look at art, literature, our own writing, even the world around us. Thank god we grow and change, and thank Godder (a new word I just made up) that we see things differently! In the lists of “must-read” books are several Japanese authors, and American authors of color.
That change is a significant step toward opening us to different perspectives. What I read and enjoyed as a child (Little Black Sambo) is cringe-worthy to me. I’ve changed, my readings tastes have changed, and my perspectives have evolved.
And those things should change. It’s how we navigate the world and build understanding for those people who don’t necessarily look like, sound like, or live like we do.
Just for the record, the sneakers are grey, and the dress is white and gold.