Though I bleary-eyed and zombie-like due to the boundary-pushing of my two year-old and the teething of my one year-old, I have been thinking a lot about the current Western canon and what my sons will be reading and thinking about as they grow older. I feel really privileged to be well read.
I’m actually going to pause on that thought.
“Well read” is such an interesting thought and concept. And so terribly subjective, isn’t it? Who decides who is well read, and why? I feel very confident that I am well read in some subjects, not so much in others. While I was not trained in classical literature, I was privileged enough to go to a great public school system that exposed me to many of them, and more importantly, instilled in my a love of reading so that I could go out and find the ones that I did not read.
While I had a liberal arts education in college, featuring many thinkers and thoughts and words, there are certainly whole swaths of the canon that I have missed. Some swaths I want nothing to do with. Others, I’m too intimidated to dare.
Have you ever stopped to wonder what the toddlers of today will be reading in high school tomorrow? While they are reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear like so many before them, my boys are also reading The Skin You Live In and I Stink. Will they read these books to their children? Should they? Will Brown Bear still be relevant? While I hope that they will take the time to read the “classics” like The Count of Monte Cristo or the Three Musketeers, or even the Lord of the Rings series, I wonder if there are others that will simply be irrelevant to them. Do my boys need to read A Separate Piece? The Catcher in the Rye? As much as I loved it, should they read East of Eden? Who chooses? Why? Is Black Boy more relevant to them? Their Eyes were Watching God? Home? Shogun? Lord of the Flies?
You get the picture.
More importantly, I’m thinking about the lessons and messages that I want my boys to get when they read. I want them to learn about humanity in relation to themselves and the words on the pages that they choose to read. I want them to carry characters with them the way that I do. I want them to think about the power of passages and pages, of worlds and the events that happen in them.
And I want them to see themselves in the books that they read. That is the hardest desire of all. What books are out there with bi-racial boys like mine changing the world or slaying the dragon or reversing the spell?
This is why I write. Not because I want to write stories featuring bi-racial children, but because I want to write the books that I think my sons could learn from and grow from. Not children’s books or YA books, but books for them when they are ready. When they are men facing the world, making decisions, making ripples in their lives with their thoughts, words and deeds. I want to write tomorrow’s canon today.
What makes you write? What makes you put the proverbial pen to paper?