Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Celebrating Barbara Kingsolver on Her Birthday

Today is the birthday of one of my favorite writers, Barbara Kingsolver. The story of how she moved from being an academic and a technical writer to a woman who makes a living as a creative writer has probably inspired tens of thousands of people.

She was pregnant and suffered insomnia. Her doctor suggested that she clean the bathrooms with a toothbrush, so that she had motivation to stay asleep. Instead, she decided to write what would become her first novel, The Bean Trees. She moved her typewriter into a closet so that she could write on her typewriter and her husband could sleep.

Notice that she had always been a writer. In addition to the academic and technical writing she had been doing as part of her work, she had been writing poems and short stories (for most of her whole life). But The Bean Trees catapulted her into popularity. She's continued to write fantastic novels and wonderful essays. I love how her novels weave themes of social justice into compelling plotlines with characters who are utterly believable.

I love her essays too. If I ever give up this South Florida life and move to a farm, her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle will be partly to blame. That book makes sustainable living sound doable.

Hardly a week goes by when I don't wonder if I'm living a good life, the kind of life that makes a difference to anyone.  Kingsolver's books show us ordinary people doing simple actions that tilt the trajectory of humanity towards a more just and humane future.  She assures us that we can all do these things.

 If you've been having a similar time, where you wonder if anything you do is worth doing, here's a quote from Kingsolver to inspire you: "What a writer can do, what a fiction writer or a poet or an essay writer can do, is re-engage people with their own humanity. Fiction and essays can create empathy for the theoretical stranger."

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