The responsibility of being an older sibling is something that I’ve been less than excellent with up to date. At seventeen, I moved away from home to start college in a town two and half hours away, leaving my then six and seven year old half-sisters (on my mother’s side) with no older sister to guide them. My father had four children that I didn’t know about until I was fourteen, when I reconnecting with him. Though I no longer speak with my father, his ex-wife (mother to my four half-siblings) and I keep in contact. Four sisters and two brothers, and I’m the oldest. I have six siblings, and I can’t honestly say that I’ve been the best at trying to help shape their views and thoughts, though I certainly plan to be more available in the future.
I can think of three ways I like to communicate; writing, food, and books. I am not an excellent speaker, my emotions can tend to get the better of me when I’m talking about something I feel passionately about, which is why writing is something that I prefer. I can think things out and state them eloquently when I write. With cooking, I can show that I love or care for someone through the effort I put into making them something both tasty and sustenant. Though I love to write and cook, my favorite way to show that I care is probably through books.
I learn from everything that I read. Passing on a meaningful book is something that brings me joy. My mother has passed on books that meant something to her, as have many of my friends. I’ve decided to compose a list of books that I’d like to pass on to my sisters (and brothers) in an effort to share things that I’ve learned and grown from.
- Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
The first four books I’m going to talk about are YA novels that stuck with me; my first book choice being Speak. Speak is one of the few books that I have read and reread. Not only do I absolutely love the book, I quite enjoy the movie as well. Though Melinda is extremely traumatized throughout the book, we get the chance to see a victim come through it and eventually defend herself from a secondary attack after speaking out. Melinda is different from many victims written into rape stories, she gains an extraordinary amount of strength, and though unfortunately not all victims do, she shows victims that recovery is possible. She shows young women that there will be people on their side when they come forward. Melinda helped a much younger me through some very difficult times, and I will always keep this book on my shelves so that I can pass it on. I want all of my sisters to read this book someday.
- Are You There God It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
This is probably the only Judy Blume book I read. I’m strange in that I often dislike mainstream fiction choices, and Blume’s writing was so popular that I shied away from it. Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret deals with religion. I was raised in a semi-strong Southern Baptist family, and I have had a great deal of doubt as a result. This book showed me that I wasn’t alone, and gave me a tiny bit of exposure to other religions. It’s been quite a long time since I’ve read it, but I remember feeling a little bit less like I was the only kid in the world who was skeptical of her faith. I want them to read this book in case they feel the same way.
- The PoisonWood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
I mentioned this book in my review of Prodigal Summer, and I stand by everything that I said about Kingsolver’s writing. She’s excellent, and she weaves a great story with a rich environmentally-based setting. This book is, as I said, an anti-white saviour tale. I see so much value in that, so much power in the beautiful descriptions of a place and people who are often painted as savage and untamed. I want my brothers and sisters to be exposed to narratives like this, things that help combat the single story of Africa that is so often taught.
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Perks is full of interesting characters, but more importantly it’s full of powerful themes. It’s one of the few books that I’ve read to portray a male victim of sexual abuse, something that is not discussed nearly as often as it should be. It also discusses topics like drugs, sex, homosexuality, and more. Chbosky writes a very powerful book that encompasses a lot of things that teens are faced with, as well as the residual issues from things that aren’t often discussed. It holds a special place in my heart, and I hope to pass it on to all of my siblings.
- The Cider House Rules by John Irving
Moving on to adult literature, I hope to pass The Cider House Rules on to my siblings around the time that they’re in high school or college. I read this book as a sophomore in college, and I was very thankful for the recommendation from my dear friend Carlynn. Abortion is an issue that has been widely discussed for decades, if not centuries. This book was written in 1985, and unfortunately is still entirely relevant today. This novel gives an excellent perspective on abortion, one that I view as far less biased than most conservative propaganda. I don’t want to force my views on my siblings, but I do want them to have a solid view of the pro-choice side.
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
I read this book way back in high school, and it’s one that I hope to revisit this year at some point. The concept behind it is what drove me into a dystopian fiction journey back in the day. I adore Atwood’s ability to completely engross her readers in a sci-fi world that is both realistic and fantastical. Her story speaks on gender and class in a way that not many books can, and I hope to pass it on in order to encourage my sisters to really see their worth and remind them ‘nolite te bastardes carborundorum,’ as Atwood writes. (Fun fact, that quote was on my graduation cap!)
- You Don’t Have to Like Me by Alida Nugent
I recently reviewed this book, so you can check out my in-depth opinions here. I want to pass this beauty on because it’s an honest, hilarious intro to feminism.
- Letter to my Daughter by Maya Angelou
I fell madly in love with this book during my last semester in college, and I can’t think of a single reason not to share it. Angelou is a fabulous writer, and this book is like a culmination of all of her advice points from her books in one. Brief essays that get to the point are a wonderful, and she tackles a lot of important issues in this book. I want my sisters to read books that were written for them, books intended to be consumed by women to show them their (vast) value.
- Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Kaur is excellent. Her writing is strong enough to send the reader into emotional spirals; the first section of the book was like a flood of emotion that sucked me in. Her poetry addresses harsh subjects like molestation and abuse, and bright subjects like love and hope. i want my sisters to experience strong poets of color like Kaur because they speak on topics that they’ll need to know about in order to be well informed members of society.
- The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb This was the first Wally Lamb novel I read and I got through c. seven hundred pages in just a few days. Lamb’s writing is tragic in a good way, and this book goes into a cornucopia of bad situations ranging from mass shootings, PTSD, death, family secrets, and women’s prisons. Though it sounds quite bleak, it’s a rich read full of almost tangible emotion that any reader can grow from. I would like for my sisters to read it someday because it’s high on my list of damn good books.
I wrote this list because I wish I’d had an older sister to guide me through the hard stuff. I want to be that sister, and I hope this is my first step in the right direction.
This post is, of course, dedicated to my sisters Tara, Stella, Sophia, and Emma. I’m vowing to be a better sister than I have so far, and I love all of you.