#SJYALit: Walk A Mile In Their Shoes, a guest post by Christina June
When I was in grad school, a required course for my degree was Multicultural Counseling. An assignment in that class was to do something outside “your box” so you could experience what it feels like to be uncomfortable, maybe even upset, at what was happening around you. It could be something as small as watching a movie or going to a restaurant. My professor, an African-American woman, even offered to take any of us who wanted to go to her Baptist church. One of my peers, a young white Morman guy, took her up on it. She told us whatever experience we chose was to help us learn empathy for those who were different from us. So we would be able to put our own biases aside when helping clients or students who came from different backgrounds.
At 22, I took that message with me not only during that assignment, but for every assignment, every client session, every interaction, then and now. Though I’d been lucky to grow up in a fairly diverse area of the country, I’m aware that not everyone has the opportunity to interact regularly with people who are different from them.
With the chaotic political climate of the US, it’s hard not to see the cracks that have always been present widening into canyons. The differences in philosophies on life are staggering and frankly, for me, confusing. I think back to that class in grad school all the time and wish more people could get out of their boxes. They way I see it, it all boils down to this:
- Some people are selfish.
- Some people are not selfish.
Sounds harsh, I know, but hear me out. When I say selfish, I don’t mean a little kid who doesn’t want to share his toys. I mean someone who puts their personal interests first, before the needs of the masses. Someone who lacks empathy and compassion. Someone who is unable to put themselves in the mind and body of someone else for a little while. I’ll admit there are times when acting on one’s own behalf is important, but most of the time, when we think about the greater good, everyone wins. Seems pretty simple, yeah?
But what if you’re not there yet? This is where books can make a huge difference.
Books magically allow a reader to put themselves in the head of a narrator for several hours and feel what they feel. They allow a reader to experience different ways of life—try them on for a little while—which can lead to greater understanding of others. And once we realize that experiences are universal, it’s easy to see we’re more alike than not.
Is your romantic relationship complicated by your family dynamics? Try IT’S NOT LIKE IT’S A SECRET by Misa Suguira or GIRL MANS UP by M-E Girard.
Feel like you’re the only one hiding something? Check out THE THING WITH FEATHERS by McCall Hoyle.
It’s much easier to fight for your friends than strangers, right? If you know someone, what they’ve been through, the specifics of their life and their struggles, you’re more likely to go to bat for them. You’d probably think that fight was worth your time. Books can help kids make new friends that’ll stick with them for their whole life and inform which battles they’re willing to walk into. And the earlier they learn these lessons, the better off all of us will be.
Teachers, librarians, booksellers, mentors—they are all magicians. They have the unique and tremendously important ability to put books in the hands of kids who need something. Maybe they need that new friend. Any book has the potential to change—or even save—a life. Books can have a ripple effect for years and years and it is my sincere hope that the amazing books that are being written right now will make long-lasting impressions on young readers.
I don’t expect—or want—all my neighbors to look like me, love like me, or believe like me. Many agree with me, but many do not. However, I’m optimistic that the more we learn about others, the more we will consider them in our decisions.
Make new friends. We’re all in this together. There’s no I in Team. Walk a mile in their shoes. Together we stand, divided we fall.
We’re better when we lose the selfish and work to make sure everyone feels supported. Books are a great starting point.
Meet Christina June
Christina June writes young adult contemporary fiction when she’s not writing college recommendation letters during her day job as a school counselor. She loves the little moments in life that help someone discover who they’re meant to become – whether it’s her students or her characters. Christina is a voracious reader, loves to travel, eats too many cupcakes, and hopes to one day be bicoastal – the east coast of the US and the east coast of Scotland. She lives in Virginia with her husband and daughter. Her debut novel, IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE, was released in May 2017, and a companion, EVERYWHERE YOU WANT TO BE, will be available in 2018.
About IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE by Christina June
Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night, which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client. If Tatum is reading his emails right, her virtual Prince Charming is funny, smart, and talented—and he seems to think the same about her. Too bad he’s spending his summer across the ocean in Ireland…not that Tatum would be allowed to go on a date anyway.
But over the course of the summer, Tatum will learn that sometimes going after what you want means breaking all the rules. And when Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way. A modern play on the Cinderella story arc, Christina June’s IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE will appeal to fans of Sarah Dessen, Stephanie Perkins, and Jennifer E. Smith.
Filed under: #SJYALit
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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