You Are Not Alone

Why do I read? And why do I read what I do, which has influenced me to write the people and places and sagas I write? For Reasons, I say.

It all goes back to when I was a girl.

Younger Me was innately curious, ravenous for knowledge, for life-experience and for a world where the things I imagined and dreamed might somehow become reality (I still catch myself wondering if random closets lead to Narnia). I was a dreamer, a thinker, and a busy, busy mind. The other side this reaching for understanding was sadder: I was too often alone with my thoughts, with the chaotic feelings that growing up in an endlessly complex world created.

The books I read assuaged this loneliness. They spoke to me. They mitigated the alienation that even the gentlest, friendliest little soul can sometimes feel. They showed me that other people were confused, too. That someone out there understood enough about this weirdo-world to create characters who, like me, were doing their best to make sense of it all. Sometimes these characters failed spectacularly, but in the end, they were able to come into their own and even save the weirdo-world in the process.

These characters made sense to me. They were real. These familiarly-flawed heroes were young girls like me (or at least like me in my headiest daydreams). Aerin Dragon-Killer, the heroine of Robin McKinley’s Hero and the Crown; Lucy Pevensie in Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series, Jo from Alcott’s Little Women, Polly and other Diana Wynne Jones heroines and most especially, my two favorites: Alanna of Trebond from Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series and Meg Murray from L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time. Quite a list—sorry to spam. No wait, I’m not sorry at all! These book-girls saved me from the isolation it is so easy to slip into when the world is noisy and muddled and too full of feels. And thanks to these writers, Young Me experienced so many empowering ideas.

I learned that, like Lucy Pevensie, girls can be incredibly resourceful and practical and humorously aware of those gifts:

“Girls aren’t very good at keeping maps in their brains,” said Edmund.

“That’s because we’ve got something in them,” replied Lucy.

-C.S. Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia

I learned through Jo March that I was not the only girl who felt an almost painful desire to do something big and amazing and worthy of the bards and that often these desires conflicted with simple, everyday success:

“I want to do something splendid…something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it and mean to astonish you all someday.”

“I keep turning over new leaves, and spoiling them, as I used to spoil my copybooks; and I make so many beginnings there never will be an end.”

― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

Alanna of Trebond taught me more than I can articulate, but most especially that strength is sometimes not about fighting grand battles, but about letting others in, letting them love us just for who and what we are:

“Alan, you seem to think we won’t like you unless you do things just like everyone else. Have you ever thought we might like you because you’re different?”

― Tamora Pierce, Alanna: The First Adventure

And of course, I learned through Meg Murray that our flaws can be transmuted into the most wonderful of strengths:

“Meg, I give you your faults.

“My faults!” Meg cried.

“Your faults.”

“But I’m always trying to get rid of my faults!”

“Yes,” Mrs. Whatsit said. “However, I think you’ll find they’ll come in very handy on Camazotz.”

― Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

Today, I cannot ignore the legacy these writers and their so-very-real characters created for me: write women and girls who are true, who are strong, who struggle, who fail, and who push through (sometimes with battering rams) to success and a better understanding of the world. It’s a banner I’m proud to wield, and the reason something as glorious as creating whole worlds can have even greater impact in my life and, if I’m lucky, the lives of others.

I will continue to read, to write what I do, especially my millions of upcoming fiction projects, in the hopes that somewhere my words can achieve what books did for Roald Dahl’s Matilda:

“So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.” — Roald Dahl, Matilda

0 thoughts

  1. Jo March was my absolute hero when I was a small bun. I thought she was just like me and I wanted to be just like her: brave and creative and full of ideas and independence. Wanting to be like Jo led me down a very independent path in life and I’ve never wanted to look back. She is still my hero!

    1. Isn’t it amazing how much impact a character like Jo can have? It thrills me to think of Small Bun harnessing her own bravery and independence to bring her sheer awesome into the world, inspired along the way by her favorite March sister. ^_^

  2. I loved Meg as well. Other girls important to my formative years were Katie Welker, The Girl With the Silver Eyes (by

    Willo Davis Roberts) and Fiona McCool, one of The Wizard Children of Finn (by

    Mary Tannen).

    1. Oh my goodness, I had totally forgotten The Girl With The Silver Eyes! I will definitely be going back to re-read that one…I remember having a paperback of it in 6th grade and loving it. 🙂 I love hearing that other people related to Meg, too–she was so believable and in the end, so very strong. 🙂

  3. For me, it all started with Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing – when I read that I realized books could be my friends, and I was hooked! Books may have actually saved my life, so I understand what you mean. I still enjoy reading YA and Middle Grade because it brings me back to a time of wonder, magic and sweetness. I am tempted to read those books you were describing. 🙂

    1. And I also forgot about Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing…that was a really good one! You said books may have actually saved your life…I wanna reach out through the intertubes and hug you because yes, childhood and youth can be so rough without those guiding lights. I definitely recommend A Wrinkle In Time–it’s a fast and wonderful read, and was ahead of its time for sure. Thanks for this comment–I always love hearing that these magical places we went to when we were young still hold up to this day with each re-read. I want people NEVER to lose that sense of wonder.

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