My first, mildly flippant thought, is that my law school textbook on constitutional law changed my mind about my dream of becoming an ACLU civil rights lawyer, because I decided that constitutional law was borrrrring.
Surprisingly, textbooks on tax law later changed my mind, because I realized that tax law was fascinating and complex enough to satisfy the brainiac side of me. (A side of me mostly hidden, especially when I’m wearing basketball shorts.) I indeed became a tax lawyer, although I mostly practiced in the area of mergers and acquisitions, which are fun, fun, fun! Um, for a lawyer.
But I almost sense that this isn’t what I was supposed to write about. 🙂
In high school, I fell in love with the novels of Hermann Hesse and Fyodor Dostoevsky. They were BRILLIANT, deep, thoughtful works that touched the very core of me. My first taste of Hesse was Demian, an assignment for English class. It caused me to read every novel he’d written. With Dostoevsky, it was Crime and Punishment, another assignment for English class. By age 15, I was already planning to go to law school — geek alert! — and Crime and Punishment also appealed to the future lawyer in me. I loved the way Dostoevsky’s mind worked and read more of his books, too.
Those books didn’t change my mind in a particular way or on a particular issue, but they fed my mind and my soul in a way far beyond most other books. They changed ME.
Perhaps oddly, I generally don’t write books like that. I prefer to write light and funny stuff, and often read it, because light and funny books bring light to a world that is often too dark. I need light almost as much as I need air to breathe.
But once in a while, I read something that hits harder, something that feeds my brain and my soul in a way mildly reminiscent of the novels I read in high school. A few examples from the last few years: The Book Thief. 13 Reasons Why. Speak.
And sometimes I write novels that capture those deeper feelings, because they’re still within me as much as I might pretend otherwise. I also add a little of that depth even to my light and funny novels. Because all of it — light, dark, funny, serious — is inside of me.
I can only hope that my novels change some minds, too. Or at least expand them.
Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her at marystrand.com.