Books Save Lives

There’s a whole commotion going around on Twitter about a WSJ article saying YA books are too dark nowadays, which has led people to tweeting the hashtag #YASaves, which touches me closes to my heart. Not only Young Adult, but books in general. All sorts of books. Because sometimes, reality is so messed up, the only way to get through the day, the hour, the minute, is to hang on to fiction to dear life. Sometimes, people in your life are so caught up on their own, that the only friends your have are those characters printed on paper, the only people who truly *get* you, who know what you’re going through, what you’ve been through, the only ones who will hold your hand through the darkness. Sometimes, when everything seems lost, and you don’t even know how things could possibly be okay anymore, there’s the heroine in that book, who overcomes just the same thing you’re trying to, and, as she does, it feels like she’s whispering in your ear, “You can do it, too. You’re strong. Just like I am.”

A MOTHER’S MOTHER She comes home from school and throws the bookbag on the corner of the room. It’s all a mess, she knows, but she hasn’t had time to pick it up. She needs to hurry back down and fix her little brother and sister something to eat. She puts a sandwich together because it’s easier, and walks to wash the dishes before she can make herself eat. “Can I please have another one?” a little voice asks and she walks to the fridge, just to realize it’s nearly empty again. She takes a deep breath, fighting the tears. The nearest grocery store is not that far away, but it’s hard for her to walk back carrying all the bags by herself. The fridge isn’t empty by the lack of money, that’s not the issue. It’s just… “Pleeease, can I have some cereal?” The other little voice interrupts and she gives the rest of the box, trying to plan ahead and see if she can squeeze in groceries between dance classes and soccer practice. Eating is kind of a priority. With the dishes, she washes out the bottles. The bottles which are slowly taking her mother, her single mother, away, which are putting the whole weight and responsibility of carrying a household on her back, at sixteen. She goes through the day in a blur, fighting the tears, going through the motions, doing what she needs to do to survive, to keep her siblings taken care of. It’s only at night, when she’s alone, that she breaks down, that she allows the tears to flow. Then, she grabs a book, and hangs on for dear life. And, for a while, just a while, she doesn’t have to live her life, or think about it. Everything’s okay. And she doesn’t have to hurt anymore.”

THE FATHER FROM HELL “The screams are so loud not even the blasting music can make them go away. He wishes he could make them disappear once and for all, but he knows that’s never going to happen. His mom tried, he knew, but, in the end, she always went back to him. Him. His father. His own damned father. If he could call that man that. He looked at his own arm to see the bruises. Some were brand new, others were starting to fade. He hated that man with all his power, and he wished he had the guts to do something about it, but he didn’t. He knew he didn’t stand a chance if he tried, especially when his mother wasn’t strong enough to take his side. He knew his father was loved and respected and no one would have believed if he told what was going on at home. Maybe, someday, he would be able to do something. Maybe he’d find the courage he needed so much. Meanwhile, he reads a book, about a brave boy who stands up for the man who hurts him and tries to destroy his life, and wishes he could absorb his power. He thinks he’s maybe starting to gather a little strength from the letters on those pages. And, he knows, at least, he’s not alone.”

HAPPILY EVER AFTER “She looks at the little body on the bed and her little heart breaks even more. “When is sissy waking up, mommy?” she asks to her mother, surprised to see eyes full of tears. Sissy IS going to wake up, right? Sleeping beauty, hello? She’s just waiting for the prince to go and kiss her. But mommy doesn’t say anything, and her own eyes start to moist. She’s lost track of the time, that sissy’s been lying on that bed, but she’s been there every day. Mommy and daddy seem more and more tired every day, so, she helps them by doing what she does best: she reads sissy her favorite stories every day. She’s still learning to read, and it takes a while to put all the letters together, but she’s read her favorite stories so many times, that she knows them all by heart. She loves the stories, because they take her to an enchanted world, where there are fairies and elves and princesses and good always beats evil, and, more importantly, where everyone lives happily ever after. So, as she read the stories every day, she was just more and more sure and she and sissy would, too.”

Sometimes, reality is too much to bear. Sometimes, the world sucks in a way we cannot stand. Sometimes, the world is too damned dark, and the only way to escape it, is to bury ourselves in fiction. The only way to maintain sanity, is to distance ourselves from OUR lives, and live someone else’s for a while. BOOKS SAVE LIVES. They have saved mine.

Have they saved yours?

Spread the word.

Barbie Furtado



Filed under Life in General

18 responses to “Books Save Lives

  1. Verônica

    It’s a really nice choice of topic; I’ve always loved books and learned so much from them. They are entertaining and boost our imagination. I would not to as far as saying a book has saved my life but I have no doubt of their power to do so. When I’m down, though, I still prefer to turn to friends than books.

    • I think it really depends on the kind of problems and the kind of friends, though. If you’re fifteen and going through things your friends can’t even begin to comprehend, it’s really hard to go to them. Even at 20 something, sometimes it’s just hard to go to people who you know just don’t get it. Books are safe and they’re always there. You don’t feel you’re bothering them. They’re reliable, they won’t betray you! You know. They’re the best 🙂

  2. I love all of your examples– oh so true!

    When my husband died, I wanted to read books about young widows. I wanted to know that I wasn’t alone and that other people had survived such incredible loss. Because if they survived, surely I could too.

    • So right, Denise. I think books give us so much strength in the sense of “if they can do it, so can I”. And it really helps knowing we’re not alone in this!!! I think it certainly worked for you. You’re a very strong woman 🙂

  3. Jar O' Marbles

    Books definitely saved my life.

  4. Trish

    I think you know my answer to this Barbie. Books have always been my savior. When I was an awkward teenager, I turned to books to help combat the loneliness many teens feel when everyone around you is going to parties and dating.

    In my 20’s, books were the one constant in my life. No matter where I moved, how long I stayed in one place, how many people I met, or didn’t meet, there was always the book store to fill my days.

    I didn’t read as much in my early 30’s as I was taking classes, having a daughter, getting married, finding a full time job. Very full. Over the past few years I’ve become a book addict again. There are books I turn to when I feel lonely and it always feels as though I’m “reconnecting” with old friends.

    During a very hard patch last year, I picked up a book by my favorite author and spent the weekend reading it. I know I should have dealt with what was happening in my life at the time, but I needed a reality break to give me the opportunity to completely forget about the heartache.

    Have books saved my life? Yeah… and they’ve kept me sane too!

    I know you don’t agree with this but it is true for me… “People are OK but I prefer the company of books.”

    • Awww, Trish… You know, it’s not that I don’t agree with you. I guess it depends on the day, LOL! I do believe books “get” me better than people, and I don’t see books as a replacement for people, but a complement. I wasn’t an awkward teenager, I was weird, sure, but I was popular and had a boatload of friends. Still, books were my date most weekends. I think books and people both have their importance. For me, I’ve always gone to people for fun and hanging out and distraction, but hung on to books for comfort and understanding, you know?

      I’m glad books have helped you. I know how much you’ve been through last year, and I know how important books have been. Books are friends 🙂

  5. Maria

    I think you’re right about the importance of books; they’re more than simple escape. They can rescue you from some of the worst moments in life by offering your mind refuge.

    Good post!

    • Of course, you’d make a brilliant distinction between escape and refuge, and have it fit perfectly in the context!!! That’s EXACTLY it, Maria!!!

      And thank you! 😀

  6. Diane

    Yes. I believe that books can save lives: as an escape, refuge or inspiration. But, I can fully understand the concern that immersing oneself in books with dark topics may also influence one toward the more evil side of (in)humanity. I would imagine that it depends upon the reader: their emotional state and mental stability. (And, PLEASE!, I cast no aspersions.) I try and read books that lift me up rather than bring me down. There is more than enough real “down” in this world without adding novel-induced down.

    • I don’t think “evil” would be their concern, what they meant was darkness as in “self-harm” or “eating disorder” and they claimed that reading books with these topics could influence kids to do these things. I do think that a teenager who’s been through a lot and is “pre-disposed” to these things, will probably do it anyway. Then, they’ll feel angry and alone, and, a book may help them identify, feel understood and that they’re not the only ones who have to go through that. On the other hand, a child who hasn’t felt the urge/need to self-harm or something, they wouldn’t do it anyway, even if they read about it a million times, but it can teach them compassion and to understand others, and perceive others, maybe notice someone needs their help. 🙂

      And, by the way, I don’t think books trigger “evil”, as much as I don’t think TV, video games or movies do. “Good” or “evil” or, better, a notion of self-respect and respect for others’ rights and human life, is made up of a number of factors, including family life, school, mental stability. A person who has that, won’t be influenced by external factors like that, whereas for a person who doesn’t have that ground to their life, the factors are irrelevant. It’s all about their personal capability to differentiate right and wrong, and control their impulses to act 🙂

      Thanks for commenting, D 😀

  7. Iara

    Isso tudo que tu disse é pura verdade…Tipo, aquela pessoa que lê um livro e não se envolve completamente com a história e com os seus personagens, ela não leu o livro. O legal de ler livros é isso… que você pode viver aquilo mesmo da sua cama, chorar com os personagens e sorrir também! Eu poderia até dizer a mesma coisa de filmes e seriados, mas eles são diferentes… A foto dos livros está por nossa conta, o diferencial deles é a nossa imaginação e essa é a parte mais legal. Quem nunca ficou puto com a adaptação de um livro pra filme, não é? Nunca é a mesma coisa.

    • Acho isso o mais legal dos livros também! Pra mim, o pior da adaptação é isso, porque eu imagino os personagens de uma forma tão pessoal e tão específica, que na hora, NUNCA, NUNCA é extamente como eu imaginei. É como se não existisse uma pessao de verdade que pudesse encaixar perfeitamente no personagem do jeito que eu imaginei! 🙂

  8. Nancy Jenkins

    When I was young, in my twenties, I loved exercise books, that probably saved my life back then. I had lots of depression, wanted to be a party girl, but my “main” party girl friend was married & had lost interest in me. So I got into exercise, got loads of tapes and books and got going myself, got into fantastic shape, exercised every day for two hours.

    Then I got more into my church. I taught the tiny tots at sunday school and vacation Bible school in the summer; I did Bible study courses from the radio, ordered them, & that “saved” me, in more ways than one.

    I was a restless creature when I was young. Now I’m in my 50’s, settled down and married, & now I believe that books are the way to go. I can get lost in a bookstore, and take hours going through it! My goodness, there are so many out there! Everything you could possibly want! Whatever the mood strikes, it is there. Books to help, and so forth.

    I commend writers for working so hard on their books, I know it takes a long time to write & I admire them emmensely. So I say this, & I thank my blogger gal, get the books that you need to help you in any kind of situation. Books are our friends. For life.

    • That’s so interesting, the exercise books! I’ve been thinking about fiction the whole time, I guess I’d never given the thought that non fiction could be of help, too. Thank you for bringing that point up, too, Nancy. You’re totally right there!!!

      And, yup, I always say, Books Are Friends! Thanks for commenting!!! 😀

  9. Samara

    Esse último paragrafo diz tudo. A ficção, em geral, salva vidas. Pelo menos a minha vem salvando. Tem um texto naquele meu livro sobre amigos que é meio sobre isso. E é um dos meus textos preferidos (ou um dos poucos que ainda gosto,rs), chama-se “Em Tempo Real”.

    • Tá, eu sou a pior amiga do mundo, eu sei. Esqueci de novo, se toca, né??? Vou ver se lembro hoje!!!! UGH!!! Sério!!!! Te amo, amiga linda, desculpa!

      E sim, livros salvam vidas!

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