“So I wandered the world through books.”
– Anna Quindlen
In the 18 years that I have been alive I have travelled to parts of Western Europe and various other places in the UK. However due to reading, it has felt like I have travelled a lot further than that. Through books, one can experience other lives, cultures, time periods and worlds. From the countless number of American fiction I have read, I have fictionally been to various states and cities across the US. Thanks to Khaled Hosseini, I have imagined the war zones of Afghanistan during the 70s to modern-day. Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea gave me an insight into 19th century Caribbean whilst Asking For It, by Louise O’Neill, has shown me rural Irish towns in the modern day. From reading Rupi Kaur’s poetry I can grasp an understanding of what life as an Indian woman is. Some of these places I may visit one day but others I won’t. I also sadly cannot time travel (yet) so books set in other time periods allow me to fictionally travel to places I really cannot go to. Other forms of art and media can also do this but nothing is quite like the imagined world from cleverly written descriptions and narrative.
Not only do these books allow the mind to imagine a scene and country, but they also teach us about different kinds of people and cultures. This is a very important thing to learn as it is the only way we can all understand and truly respect one another. By reading A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, I learned more about Afghan customs and how they were affected by war than I ever have done from watching the news. I knew a little about the wars in Afghanistan from British news channels but until I read Hosseini’s work, I did not really understand how they affected real people in Afghanistan. Although the characters are fictional they give a valuable insight into real people suffering due to war.
Books have always allowed us to step into the mind of the main character and attempt to experience life from their points of view. That’s why culturally diverse books – and diverse books in general – are important. I will most likely only experience life as a white, middle class female in the UK. I will only be able to truly understand life from my point of view as others will only understand life from theirs. However, the more diverse fiction I read, the more I hope to learn about others. With learning comes understanding, and with understanding comes acceptance. I hope I can continue to expand my knowledge and appreciation for other people and their cultures in the future as I read more and more culturally diverse books.