A Word In Edgewise: Lifelines and Life-Savers: Books Make a Difference
We humans are, on the whole, social animals, incomplete without community. Language-blessed, we love stories; heroes of olden times, fables, threads that unite, instruct, console, empower. J.P. Der Boghossian’s podcast series, This Queer Book Saved My Life! aims to alert the LGBTQI community to the many and varied queer books available.
Too often, queer individuals feel relegated to tiny islands in vast archipelagos, but books, portable and reproducible have provided lifelines to the isolated since type first struck paper. Anne Frank, in hiding as bombs fell on Amsterdam and fellow Jews were being shipped to Nazi camps, nevertheless awaited Saturdays when a Christian friend bicycled by with library books. “We long for Saturdays,” Anne confided to her diary on July 11, 1943, “because that means books. We’re like a bunch of little kids with a present. Ordinary people don’t know how much books can mean to someone who’s cooped up.”
Unfortunately, many “ordinary” people do know, not only those from the mists of history, but active in today’s beleaguered libraries and classrooms. A first action of those who would claim power is to remove from or control access to education, what books may read–and which volumes will be banned.
This Queer Book Saved My Life! podcasts provide an electronic lectern for the guest to present a piece of writing–fiction, non-fiction, memoir–that has saved them by revealing that there are others like them, gay, lesbian, trans, bi, questioning, who did make it through and can help show others the way. When possible, authors of the chosen books participate, providing fuel to ignite lively, informative discussions.
An example from Episode 6 involved whether writing should be “cathartic.” Professor Jennifer Boylan (She’s Not There) asserted, “The value of a piece of literature is not what the author was experiencing while she was writing it. You can suffer a great deal and cry a lot of tears over works of art that still suck, and your reader in the long run doesn’t really care about how hard your life was…What your reader wants to know is, “Do you have a story to tell?”
Beyond their books, authors’ personal trials and tribulations reveal even writers-on- pedestals needed earlier queer tomes as compasses when setting forth upon their own literary quests. Many listeners have been comforted and encouraged these writers speak and by learning that the guest shares their same questions and concerns.
“I just had a listener tell me the other day,” shared host J.P. “They find the podcast ‘magical’ because even though they’ve read some of the books on the show, they’ve learned so much more about the book based on the conversations with the guest and the author. And they’ve actually gone back and re-read those books with this new life and perspective. We have folks reaching out to us telling us they’ve read one of the books featured on the podcast that they never would have even thought to read and how moving the book was.”
On the eve of the second season (4 October) of This Queer Book Saved My Life J.P. reminded, “We need to stop believing that because we are on the right side of the argument [that] is enough…being on the right side of history doesn’t change anything if we don’t act on it.”