Regular readers here will recall that from time to time I urge them to READ FOR EQUALITY. In our fractured, limping-along democracy this continues to be a responsibility, although some days I wonder why I bother.
Then I read something like Tracy K. Smith’s new book, Wade in the Water, and I’m reawakened to the power of creative writing. Smith uses as some of her poems verbattem letters written by black soldiers in the War Between the States. (It was anything but civil.) That we have a black female Poet Laureate of the US matters too.
Now I’m reading Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo,” written in 1927 about Cudjo, an African who entered the US as a slave in 1859. The book was just published in 2018. Why it took so long to have this on my library shelves, I cannot fathom, but thanks to an astute librarian and Alice Walker, it’s finally available.
I remind myself, too, of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Uncle Tom’s Cabin written by “the little woman who started this big war” in President Lincoln’s words, more or less.
And there’s Nellie Bly, who, in Ten Days in A Mad-House, wrote about the rotten mental health care in this land of the free and helped bring about reforms in that milieu. And lest we forget, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle brought about change in the meat-packing industry and led to our Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act. Both of these two matter to us all, an issue of equality between the haves and have-nots, the powerful and the powerless.
When you think that what we do as writers doesn’t matter, read these books and others like them and again give your gifts to a sore and tired world. Even if you provide respite from worry, it’s important. Just do it, persist–please.