Life-Altering Stories: That book that got us thinking differently about fiction, Featuring Megan Freeman, Kalena Miller, Andrea Wang & Anuradha Rajurkar
We all have that one book. The one that cracked the world open, made you feel seen. The one that showed how inventive, deep, and powerful stories can be. The one got you dreaming about writing your own stories one day.
The Class of 2k Books chatted about that singular title that set us on the path of chasing our writerly dreams. Check out the conversation below with Megan Freeman (Alone), Kalena Miller (The Night When No One Had Sex), Andrea Wang (The Many Meanings of Meilan) and Anuradha Rajurkar (American Betiya, Knopf).
Megan Freeman: Reading Karen Hesse’s verse novel Out of the Dust was life changing for me. I was teaching middle grade English at the time and was looking for books to include in our curriculum. I had never read a novel in verse before and even though I had been a poet for years, the idea of writing an entire novel in poetry had never occurred to me. I still think of it as a touchstone book and a shining example of how just a few carefully chosen words can have an enormous impact and provide everything a reader needs to enter a world and have their heart broken open.
Kalena Miller: When I finished reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, I immediately sat down to write. As a teenager, I was a voracious reader, but it was The Book Thief that made me realize I needed to be a writer, too. The prose itself was so magical and powerful that I was filled with the desire to play with language myself. Over the years, I’ve discovered many books that similarly demonstrate the limitlessness of storytelling (We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata, and Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng are recent examples), but The Book Thief was the first one that made me realize I needed to write fiction for young readers.
Andrea Wang: The Joy Luck Club blew me away. I hadn’t read a book with so much Chinese and Chinese American representation in it before — and with eight distinct points of view, too! I finally saw that I could be a writer and write about my own life experiences. It also opened my eyes to writing stories about my parents’ generation, about the love and loss they experienced in a different country. I love the idea of intersecting, intergenerational stories where the characters’ lived experiences can both harm and heal each other.
Anuradha Rajurkar: Andrea, The Joy Luck Club was so impactful to me, too, for so many of the same reasons. If I had to choose just one, the book that changed my worldview was Another Country by James Baldwin. The way he wrote about his intersectionality as a gay Black man in Harlem was unpredictably relatable to me, a brown girl of South Asian descent coming-of-age in the 80s in the Midwest. With searing prose and pitch-perfect dialogue and characterization, he handled the betrayals within our closest relationships in a way that made its delible mark upon my soul. This book revealed how to write about love, race, and culture in a way that felt honest, and got me dreaming about writing my own story one day. Another Country will forever be a part of me, undoing me in the very best of ways, even all these years later.
What story impacted your life and got you thinking differently about fiction? We’d love to add it to our TBR!
The Class of 2k Books
Buy links and more
Anuradha Rajurkar, author of American Betiya
Andrea Wang, author of The Many Meanings of Meilan
Kalena Miller, author of The Night When No One Had Sex
Megan Freeman, author of Alone
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About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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