This month, my plan was to write about two new books, both by white men with the first name John. I wouldn’t usually choose titles with such homogeneity.
When I select books, it’s because I think they’ll add to who I am by exposing me to who I am not, and these were no exception to that practice. I like to read and write about experiences different from my own. This is why I’ve written about novels concerning gay South Asian women afraid to come out to their families, and men negotiating the inherent “us and them” of military life in Iraq, and the ingenuity of impoverished Americans facing a fictional second American civil war.
We decide how much to stretch our minds by what we ask them to do. Empathizing with the many book-bound friends a reader makes in their lifetime does this. The books I’d chosen for this month’s column seemed to achieve this — at first. But then, I was involuntarily schooled in another method of growth.
I awoke thirty-four days ago to a voicemail from my mother-in-law: One sobbing sentence, telling David, my husband, that his only brother was “gone.” He’d died in his sleep. Our life slowed with the shock.
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