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Life Saving Words by Brey Willows

Reading has saved my life more than once.

Sometimes it didn’t matter what it was I was reading. Sometimes it did.

For instance, when I was a child, Mom would drop me at the local library while she was at work. This saved me from wandering the desert in the hot sun, trying to find something to do other than run from rattlesnakes and angry badgers. Agatha Christie took me to special places and made me shiver in wonder.

Later, in high school, the library was a refuge from the bully who was ten feet taller than me and who’d decided I was the one on the hit list. The library kept me safe and gave me worlds to disappear into that where kids like me became heroes instead of victims.

The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey was my introduction to high fantasy, and I fell in love with every rider and every dragon and god how I wanted one of my own.

The women’s bookstore in Colorado was a haven and pilgramage site for every twenty something lesbian in Denver. It was there I came across Pat Califia, among others, and found myself in a whole new way. I was a young, femme lesbian and it was there I learned I wasn’t alone.

And much later, books like Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive helped me to, well, stay alive. It helped me understand my depression and how I wasn’t alone in it. The Midnight Library, too, allowed me to analyze the paths not taken and how to appreciate where I am, right here, right now.

And now? Sometimes I go back to those early books, to summers spent with Agatha Christie, to flying with dragons on Pern, to investigating clocks with Nancy Drew. I still love fantasy and because of that love I write it as well. I believe reading gives you access not only to other worlds, but to emotions. To empathy, to understanding how you can hurt people, how you can help people heal, and how you’re never, ever, alone. That monsters, both internal and external, can be defeated.

I think that life saving thing is part of my writing because I know just how important books can be when they fall into the right hands.

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