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A Letter to Your Soul

Imprint 6/23 graphic

There is no shortage of lists that celebrate Pride month. And while I have to confess some discomfort with the commercialization of Pride, I will always celebrate the proliferation of lists that make these important titles visible and accessible to people who need them most.

One of the most ambitious lists I’ve recently come across is this one from Oprah Daily which features 115 queer authors sharing the books that changed their lives. This list pulls double duty, giving you 115 authors and their favorite titles to explore. My TBR list has grown exponentially! The Oprah Daily list also demonstrates what editor Michelle Hart describes as a “lineage of life-changing queer literature.”

When I read the word lineage, I immediately thought about the Indigo Girls’ song “Virginia Woolf” on their 1992 Rites of Passage album. Emily Saliers was inspired to write the song after reading a copy of Virginia Woolf’s diary (which her mother—a librarian—suggested!). The song is about the transformative power art has to affect others across distance and time:

The place where you hold me
Dark in a pocket of truth
The moon had swallowed the sun and the light of the earth
And so it was for you
When the river eclipsed your life
And sent your soul like a message in a bottle to me
And it was my rebirth

Librarians and educators often refer to books as being mirrors and windows. Mirrors allow you to see yourself reflected in the pages. Windows allow you to experience and empathize with another’s reality. Both are essential. The first time someone sees themselves in a book can feel like a flash of lightning. You’re no longer alone. You feel seen, understood, and connected to the greater human condition. I can imagine that this kind of connection with a reader is what authors must hope for. And, when you experience this spark of recognition as a reader, I believe that you’re participating in co-creation and conversation with the author and a long lineage of other readers. Okay, okay, I know I lost some of you there (but I still believe it).

When you ask the question “What are you reading?” you may discover that you’ve actually asked a number of questions:

What are you thinking about?
What is making you laugh?
What are you struggling to understand?
What is bringing you joy?

And by listening to the answer, you’ve opened the door to greater empathy with a fellow human, something that seems in short supply right now. Give this question a try the next time you’re discussing books: What is a book that changed your life and why?

And, what’s one more list? For Pride month, I’m sharing my own personal list of life altering books. These are books that made me feel seen and understood. A few of them have quite literally saved me many times over. Happy Pride, everyone! Happy reading!