Tuesday, December 21, 2010

You Should Read This Book

The Other Side of Dark by Sarah Smith.

This book. This book. This book. It's worming it's way inside me. This book makes me want to start giving a shit again, about entering into the suffering of others, about the worth of all the lives around you and the acknowledgment of the difficult legacy of race relations left to young Americans today. The Other Side of Dark is one of the most poignant and honest fiction books I've read about the haunting (dramatized literally) legacy of slavery, so honest and transparent about all the complex ways we think--the good and the bad--the multiple truths that exist alongside each other in our heads. Our UNlovely motivations. This book makes me want to crack open my hardened chest again and start giving a crap about people, with humility and love.

During my very religious years I kept repeating words and trying to feel the things I ought to feel. Trying to love my neighbor. Trying to do charity and want to keep doing it. Wishing I didn't hate working at the soup kitchen and scrubbing the very dirty bathrooms afterwards because it was the one time a week some people had access to hot water. Because out of all the many shoulds that I accomplished with great zeal, I smiled and lied about how I really felt. Because to admit my less than lovely thoughts meant I was wrong and sinful.

And then afterwards, I told myself I'd give myself a few years off from charity, from giving a fuck about others. To cleanse my palate maybe? To stop living like Jacob Marley with chains of guilt banging around my neck? And then when I was so sick for years, nobody cared, and I thought, maybe that's just how we all are--selfish and self-involved.

I think enough of that pain has scar-tissued over now. The clouds of anger and bitterness have cleared enough where maybe I can try to love other people and still be honest at the same time. Not expect perfection of myself, or be disappointed when I don't find perfection in the people around me. Maybe there's still hope for truth and beauty in the world? In others? In myself?

Quote from near the end of the book:
Death sucks. Life is a lot more fun. So live, huh? Even when it's hard.

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