Have a chat with a group of your friends or log onto any social networking site and you will no doubt be hit with a magnitude of people, who for some melodramatic reason hate their lives. Whether it’s someone “wanting to die” because they have to write a 500 word essay, or someone “fml’ing” because the TV show they thought was on at eight, is actually on at nine, so they have a WHOLE HOUR with absolutely nothing to do. This is the world we live in, and if I took the time to look through my Twitter feed, I’m sure I’d find that I, too, am completely guilty of victimising myself when there is really no need.
Sometimes you need a little bit of perspective so you can be aware of just how good you really have it. This is where I come in. I have compiled a small list of five books that give you a massive dose of reality, and some much needed perspective.
5. The Help – Set in Jackson Mississippi, this book is about the dehumanising way housemaids were treated in the Deep South in the 1960s. Although written with love and humour, there is a dark reality that remains ever present, as these maids are treated like common slaves by their white superiors, working to the bone and being paid a pittance in the process. With a complete lack of laws to protect them, these women and their families suffer loss, beatings and humiliation. An endearing and inspiring read.
4. Prayers for Bobby – Is a true story about the life of Bobby Griffith, a gay man who decided to take his own life after years of rejection from his religious family. Moreover, it is about his mother’s agonising guilt over her son’s death, her pain once she realises his death came down to her own denial of his sexuality, and the journey she undertakes to make sure Bobby’s death was not in vain. It’s hard to read this book, with excerpts from Bobby’s actual journal he kept, and not feel angry at how his life was subject to constant dismissal over something he couldn’t change. You forget every once in a while that it’s a true story, and when the realisation hits you that this real person wrote “My life is over as far as I’m concerned. Isn’t that awful? I thought I’d last at least until twenty-five, but I guess not”, it’s hard not to feel the emotional turmoil that Bobby went through.
3. My Sister’s Keeper – follows a young girl as she fights a losing battle with terminal cancer, and the subsequent fight her sister goes through to keep a promise. The more you read about Kate, a teenager in the prime of her life fighting cancer, the more ashamed you feel when you compare it to your own problems. This book is definitely an emotional roller-coaster; I dare you to find one person who didn’t get a little teary eyed when reading it, and it may be the only case where the film lives up to the books reputation.
2. The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas – Is about a young boy named Bruno growing up in Nazi Germany as the son of one of Hitler’s right hand men. Bruno’s wide eyed, inquisitive nature leaves him immediately likable, which leads him to befriend Shmuel, a Jewish boy who is imprisoned in a concentration camp. Although their lives are worlds apart, their friendship transcends the gates which separate them. Your heart breaks for Shmuel’s defeated character, and when you see the way Jewish people were treated in these camps, and realise this was a reality just 70 years ago, you come to see how lacklustre your arguments for hating life are.
1. A Child Called “It” – Is the horrifying first person account of one of the most heinous acts of child cruelty in America’s history. Written by Dave Pelzer about his own life growing up, he recounts how his mother one day decided to stop calling him by his name, and began referring to him as “It”. He tells in excruciating detail about his mother stabbing him and leaving him in the cellar (which became his home), smearing his little sibling’s dirty nappy in his face, simply because she could, and forcing him to drink ammonia for pleasures sake. This harrowing story of a child who was beaten and abused for fun is a disturbing read; only those with a strong stomach should tackle it.
I bet your life doesn’t seem so bad anymore.