Thursday, November 29

Before and After

There have been a few books that have stayed with me so much that there is life before I read the book . . . and life after. Something about the book fundamentally touched me. A couple of books for me, in this category, are The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman's Good Omens, Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club, and Judy Blume's Deenie. I liked that book so much that I wrote an essay about it in Eveything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume.

I can tell you precisely what each of these treasured Before and After books did for me. The Handmaid's Tale touched a place of grief deep inside me that I didn't even know was there. It also awakened an even greater commitment to feminism. Good Omens was the most audacious, subversive book I had ever read--and I thought "Hmm . . . I want to write a book that's just as bold. It's in me." Next year, Red Dress Ink will publish Freudian Slip . . . and in it God is a woman who hates the singing group ABBA, and Albert Einstein is a supervisor in a place between Heaven and Hell--and he has a penchant for PowerPoint. I love it--probably my favorite book I've ever written, and I can thank Gaiman for helping me, as a writer, to let go of conventions.

The Joy Luck Club . . . well, I wept through nearly all of it. As a mother of four, I related to each mother-daughter relationship, the sacrifices of the mothers, the misunderstandings. Deenie . . . I read at age 12 or 13, and all Deenie's pain and misfit status spoke to me. So did Judy Blume's dead-on depiction of adolescence. The book still resonates.

I could go on . . . there are books I love, books that make me laugh, books that make me cry. But then there is that handful that you never forget, that become part of you.

How about you? Do you have Before and After books?

9 comments:

Leigh Brescia said...

I have three before and after novels: The first is “The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle” by Avi. I read it for the first time in the 6th grade, and that’s when I knew I loved stories and reading them and creating characters (most of my stories after that had a main character that was similar to Charlotte).

The second book was “Dreamland” by Sarah Dessen, because I read it in college (as an English major) and that’s when I knew I wanted to be a writer, and that I wanted to write young adult books.

The third (also by Sarah Dessen) was “The Truth About Forever” because after reading it I realized that I’d built a wall around myself when my grandfather died (when I was 17). The lessons I learned: it’s okay to cry and be sad when you lose someone close to you, it’s okay to remember them, and no one is perfect.

~Leigh Brescia~
http://www.myspace.com/leighbrescia
http://leighbrescia.blogspot.com/

Amanda Ashby said...

Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula LeGuin is a book I love so much that I never own it for long because I always feel compelled to give it to other people! For me it just completely explains man and how the world works (that's all!).

Btw, I love the sound of Freudian Slip and I'll be looking out for it!!

Erica Orloff said...

Hi Leigh:
My Oldest Daughter is a big Sarah Dessen fan--we have most of her books in our library here at home.
E

Erica Orloff said...

Hi Amanda:
I have so many friends who are fans of hers . . . .

My book I give away all the time is nonfiction--Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. The book changed my life in so many ways--but I had wanted to blog about fictional works today. Still that one is the one I tell people about all the time.
E

Alyson Noel said...

Hey Erica-
I loved your essay in EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO KNOW . . .

And like you, DEENIE really resonated with me, and I still have my original copy! And when I finished reading, ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME,MARGARET, I knew what I wanted to grow up to be.

In high school, I loved CATHCHER IN THE RYE, and FRANNY AND ZOEY too.

And more recently, POWER OF NOW, non-ficiton, but amazing.

Sara Hantz said...

The Thornbirds was a book that stayed with me for a long time, when I was younger.

LOVE the sound of Freudian Slip... can't wait to read it!

Erica Orloff said...

Hi Alyson:
Thanks . . . and I loved Catcher in the Rye . . . is there a writer who doesn't? ;-)
E

Erica Orloff said...

sara:
I loved that. Read it in high school, I think. Then of course watched the miniseries! I thought Rachel Ward was the most beautiful woman ever.
E

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