Reading Without Boundaries
By Emily Webber
When I started watching how my son consumes stories, it was a reminder that my own approach to reading needed to be refined. He soaks up stories wildly without any idea about labels and genres—and one day that is something about a flying unicorn, and the next day, it is about a girl collecting leaves. Seeing him do this made me realize I could probably use a little more wildness in my reading. There are always calls to get rid of labeling books, but since this is probably not going to happen, I suggest we change our attitudes towards them and make sure we push ourselves to read outside our comfort zones. So I stopped being a genre snob with things like science fiction, and thrillers, and romance. I also made sure I was reading beyond my favorite authors and familiar stories and picking up books with characters and by writers that don’t speak like me, look like me, or live like me.
While it can be all too easy with the constant barrage of news headlines to lose sight of the human aspect of stories, the anthology Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives, reminded me of the many personal stories behind those headlines. Poetry also gave me a new way to better understand different life experiences and recognize more clearly our similarities. The poetry collection, In Thailand It Is Night, showed me that no matter how different we think we are from others, we are very much connected in what we long for in this life. Science fiction and fantasy was a genre I had long avoided, but when I finally started reading it, I discovered a depth to the stories that showed how societies work and how we might build good ones. And let’s not forget that reading can be an escape, and sometimes you just need a story with a happy ending. The romance books I’ve listed below both have real characters navigating through life and love and are smart, funny stories.
Reading without boundaries, and holding conversations around those books, is a small way of saying that in these times where we often feel disconnected and misunderstood that all of our stories matter. So, make a reading challenge for yourself, check out small presses, and get some anthologies in genres you don’t typically read and discover new voices. Below are some of my favorites to help you get started.
- Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation
- The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives
- In Thailand It Is Night by Ira Sukrungruang
- American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes
Science Fiction & Fantasy
- How Long ’til Black Future Month?: Stories by N.K. Jemisin
- Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018
Works in Translation
- The Lonesome Bodybuilder: Stories by Yukiko Motoya
- Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera