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A Time for Words

I thought long and hard about whether I should write this. All over the country, writers, bookstores, and publishers alike are making statements, whether on social media or chalkboard signs. Everyone has something to say in response to the events of the last couple of weeks. Still, I wasn’t sure if I should add my voice to the others. What could I say that hadn’t already been said?

Photo by Nathan Klima

To riff on an old saying, these days, not in the news is good news. Now, my own hometown made national television for a protest that happened right here, in Wisdom House’s own backyard. It’s time we said something.

Everything that has happened in the last few days, both here in Chapel Hill and elsewhere in the country, is an important reminder of the power of words. Of how quickly they can hurt, spread hate, and lead to real violence—sticks and stones, indeed. Yet they can also incite change where it is needed and slowly heal the damage that has been done.

I’ve heard many say that now is a time for action. I’d like to add that now is also a time for words. Talking to one another, sharing our stories, seeking out the voices we don’t normally hear - these are all actions, too.

Even simply picking up a book can be a powerful thing. Read history books to understand how we got here. Read memoir to see the world through another person’s eyes. Read economics, sociology, and political texts to consider where we should go from here. Read rhetoric and communication books to understand the arguments you hear, and decide whether you agree and why.

(You might want to add a fantasy or mystery novel to your reading list, too, for when you simply need a break from it all. Taking care of yourself is important, too.)

Some books can make us profoundly uncomfortable, and others can be the safest of spaces. Reading reminds us all of our shared humanity, and helps us relate to people who may be very different from us. We need as many readers as possible right now.

We also need writers. We need reasoned arguments in a time when so few are thinking clearly. We need inspirational words. We need memories from times when things were even worse, and dreams of a time when things will be better. We need words to change minds, change hearts, and bring people together.

As publishers, it is our great privilege to help people tell their stories. No matter how crazy the world might seem at times (and we know better than anyone that truth can be stranger than fiction), we have to keep doing our jobs. We try our best to give everyone a voice, but we can’t speak for anyone, and we can’t make sure the world is listening. But I hope that so long as writers keep writing, and readers keep reading, we can find a way out of the mess our country is in.

This is my message, and this is the best I can deliver it. What do you have to say? What’s your story, and how will you share it? We all need to hear it.

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