Growing up as an only child, books were my playmates, co-conspirators that would never bully me, fellow explorers who wouldn’t laugh or get bored. Books have been my milestones, the way relationships or travels are for other people.

I discovered the gorgeous world of pictures-in-books (better known as graphic novels/ comics) in mid 2000s and unpleasantly- gender discrimination among readers. I had to take on the ‘chick in a boys section’ fight to admire the Sandman, examine Lucifer, crush on the works of then unknown Brazilian twins @fabiomoon & @gabriel_ba. This foreshadowed #Gamergate and #MeToo, both movements of my time & generation.

Social media made me aware of race relations. In Black History specials, I found stories mirroring Indian caste & religion politics. Fiction about a world that one doesn’t belong to, provides a safe way to examine ideas. It gave me structure to think about privilege currency (language, gender, sexuality, caste, geography, religion) + the stresses they apply on our society. I could examine inherited trauma, equitable vs equal, crossgroup relationships without being overwhelmed by my own personal experiences.

These days I’m enjoying stories about women by women, especially from places other than UK & USA. I’ve seen worlds in weeks.

Some reading has been upsetting, my tears staining pages, blurring my vision. But still I do because these narratives reveal depths inside my self, unearthing feelings I didn’t know how to name. ROOM reminded me of what children see & know, how much of that pure wisdom we bury. BIG, LITTLE LIES gave names to hurts that have lain buried inside me and festered because I was shamed for their existence. This is also why we read – to be seen, to have our pain validated.

There have been the comforts, hopes, new visions. I am loving the genres called YA and New Adult because of the kind of characters & issues that storytellers are allowing young people to express. It’s a brave new world that sees young people as our heroes.

Books make my world worth living in. My soulmate really is a book.

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