That seems like such a dramatic question, right? Can books change lives? Do the words on pages have the ability to start you on a new path? I think they do and here's why.
Even though I grew up in a predominantly black city, I spent quite a bit of time in a predominantly white world. The number of books I read with characters that looked like me was limited. That's not because my mother didn't take me to the library or bookstore, it's because authors that looked like me may have been writing, but those books weren't readily available for various reasons.
I read the "classics" as defined by American standards and tons of young adult lit while growing up, but for every book like Mildred Taylor's Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, there were hundreds of books with characters that looked like Nancy Drew or the Sweet Valley High twins. So I read them because that's what was available on the shelves.
But in college, I discovered Breaking Ice and it was everything! There were authors I'd never heard of in all my years of private school. Marita Golden, Gloria Naylor and so many others leaped off the pages. I was no longer limited to the few authors that had managed to squeak through and cross over, like Maya Angelou and Alice Walker. I found myself reading stories by people that looked like me who wrote stories about my life and things I could relate to. I looked into the mirror held up by what I found in that book and liked what I saw. I've held on to my copy for 24 years and it's as raggedy as all get out, but I still love it. It's part of the reason why I blog, part of the reason why I seek out books by black authors, part of the reason why I'm so interested in promoting diversity in lit.
So that's my story. What's yours?