Welcome back to Four Book Friday, a continuing series where writers and readers tell us about four books that changed their life! This week’s post comes from Clarissa, a writer and one of my partners in crime at Simmons College. Read on for the four books that changed her as a writer and a person.
So Mackenzi asked me to be a guest blogger for Four Book Friday, and here I am gang! A little bit about myself, for those of you who aren’t familiar:
I’m a native Californian (though currently you wouldn’t be able to tell, as I’ve lost my tan to the point where you can basically see through my skin)
I have wanted to be a writer since I was eight
I’m walking encyclopedia about a lot of things, and quite literally will explain it all if you ask (and sometimes even if you don’t)
I’m obsessed with woolly mammoths
Now for my four books. Picking four books was extremely difficult to do, let me tell you. I wanted to sneak in an extra ten books and make it 14 Book Friday instead, but I restrained myself to the four books, so you’re welcome. And for clarification, these are in no particular order:
(Yes, I’m aware that this is the cheesy 80s cover, but this is what the copy that I first read looked like so I felt that it was only appropriate to use it here.)
I read this book for the first time when I was twelve, and Holy Moses, I both simultaneously loved and hated this book. I loved the book because I could feel Meg’s awkwardness come right off the page and empathized with her (poor Meg always wanting to hold someone’s hand, and instead shoving her fists in her pockets, but damn, she finally takes on IT and saves the day); I wanted a boy like Calvin O’Keefe to be mine (uhm, hello, did anyone else just about die when he tells Meg “…you’ve got dreamboat eyes”?); and I wished that Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which (and even Aunt Beast) were in my life to guide me. I hated the book (okay, maybe hate is the wrong word), I envied the book for the way in which L’Engle interweaves the fantasy within the reality, and I despaired because I was certain that I would never create something as well-crafted as this. A lot of people don’t know that Wrinkle is part of L’Engle’s Time Quintet and while I liked the other books in the series, none of them quite captured the magic that I felt when I first read Wrinkle. This book is the text that inspired my first novel, and my twelve year-old self is still longing for two things: one, for my novel to have even a fourth of the magic that Wrinkle holds between its covers, and two, (even though this is super embarrassing to admit) I’d like for my Calvin to appear.
Disclaimer: Anne Holm’s North to Freedom is a sad book. There’s no getting around it. I mean, look at that cover. David escapes a concentration camp to try and find his mother, who may or may not still be alive. On the way, he encounters some people willing to help him, and others who literally want to kill him. Kid can’t catch a break, and Holm doesn’t let David off easily. When I first read Freedom, it was as if a light went off above my head, since making things extremely difficult for my characters was something that I never thought to do as a writer – let my characters go through hell and back. Now, I subscribe to this treatment rather frequently. Let’s give create all the pain for my characters! With all the violence and trauma that David goes through, as I was reading and re-reading the book when I was younger, all I wanted to do was reach through the pages and hug him. When he almost dies saving a little girl from a fire, I practically had a heart attack. Rationally I knew that Holm wasn’t going to kill David off two-thirds of the way through the book, since it’s told in close third person, but she comes pretty close. Originally written in Danish, Freedom as a translated novel still translates well, and the journey that the reader goes on with David is one that has continued to resonate with me even as adult.
For Tortall! (If you’ve read this book, or any of other Pierce’s Song of the Lioness quartet, or the many of the other novels that take place in this realm, you’ll get the joke. For those of you who have not, you are missing out.) I wanted to be Alanna when I was a kid. (Admittedly, a part of me still does.) She is such a bad-ass. Plus she had purple eyes, which made her, in my mind, that much cooler. What I loved about Alanna was that I immediately was sucked into Tortall and realms that many of Pierce’s novels take place in. There are obvious medieval influences here, but Alanna is pure fantasy, and it is fantastic. I read the Song of the Lioness quartet the summer before I went into seventh grade, and every time I pick up this novel, it reminds me of that summer and I’m taken back to sitting in the stacks at my local library reading these books. (Don’t worry – I actually did check them out from the library; I didn’t just stay in the stacks all summer reading.) As a writer, I strive to create strong female characters like Alanna, characters who stick to their convictions, and who are not only as capable in harrowing situations as their male colleagues, but that are even tougher and better. Alanna is another title that has very much influenced my own writing; Pierce’s writing has an underlying humor to it that I’ve tried to emulate, and whether or not I’ve been successful, well, only time will tell. (If only I could plug my novel’s publication date here…)
Reading Mi Revalueshanary Fren for the first time was something akin to the first time I ever read on my own as a child. I had a revelation when I read Fren – like I had never realized words could sound the way they do in the way that Johnson writes; that the sounds of words, when written like this had a new magic that I had never stumbled upon before. I read Fren at a time when I questioning a lot about my academic career as an undergrad, and wondering if I had chosen the correct path, or if I had made a horrible mistake and needed make some big changes in my life. After reading Fren, I felt silly for ever thinking that I could do anything but be in a world of literature. My copy of Fren came with a CD of Johnson reading his own work, and while reading it myself was magical, hearing Johnson’s voice took the text to a whole other level of sublimity. This is definitely a text that I try to recommend to as many as people as I can, because reading this will change your life. See for yourself here.
So there we go. Check out my blog too – the 5 and ½ Minute Hallway (bonus points if you get the reference).
Thanks, Clarissa! If you’re new here, you can read my first Four Book Friday from last week by clicking here!
Tune in next week when English teacher and book enthusiast Hannah tells us about two boys named Will Grayson and a book she and I read together in seventh grade English class!