Book Beat: Mental Health, Feminism, and Dissent

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25th anniversary edition of "The Alchemist," HarperCollins Publishers Inc.. Written by Paulo Coelho, cover design by Jim Tierney.

25th anniversary edition of “The Alchemist,” HarperCollins Publishers Inc.. Written by Paulo Coelho, cover design by Jim Tierney.

Hello again, readers! The week before last, I suggested borrowing books with both female protagonists and authors. This week, I suggest reading for mental health, but I don’t necessarily mean self-help books. For instance, I recently went by my local library’s book sale and bought a book of Irish myths, a copy of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (which I previously read for a high school English class), and a barely-used doodle prompt book. I didn’t exactly go into the sale with any sort of theme or goal in mind, but I realized that all three books addressed certain aspects of my mental health that I wanted to work on.

Mythology anthologies or novels focusing on quests, such as the Irish myths anthology and Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, make me pause and wonder what I would do in the hero’s shoes which encourages introspective examination. Re-reading books, especially if you started but never finished them, also helps you to reflect on how you’ve changed in the interim and what you get out of the narrative now. If you’re too tired or don’t have the time to actually sit down and devour a book, doodle prompt books help to spark your creativity and allow the analytical side of your mind to rest.

Another way to take care of your mental health and deal with stress is to read narratives similar to your own to help you to feel less alone. TIME Magazine, for example, recently published a list of 6 LGBQT books for young readers that includes WWAC favorite The Answer by Rebecca Sugar as an extension of the Steven Universe world. There’s also something to be said about reading a book as a group like with the New York City community program, “One Book, One New York.” The inaugural program was organized by New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME), but ultimately, it was New Yorkers who picked Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as the book of choice. It’s hard not to feel hopeful knowing that the city chose a book written by a black woman.

"The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea," Grove Press. Written by Bandi, translated by Deborah Smith. Jacket design by Peter Dyer, photo from iStockPhoto.

“The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea,” Grove Press. Written by Bandi, translated by Deborah Smith. Jacket design by Peter Dyer, photo from iStockPhoto.

Speaking of feminist books, Chelsea Clinton has announced that she will be writing a children’s book on inspirational women in American history titled She Persisted. The book’s title refers to  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s efforts to silence Senator Elizabeth Warren from reading a letter by Coretta Scott King opposing the nomination of racist Jeff Sessions to federal judgeship.

Not all authors, however, are so heavily publicized – The Accusation: Forbidden Stories From Inside North Korea, for instance, is possibly the first book written by a still-living North Korean dissident that has been smuggled out of the country for publication and is now available in the United States. Even though the author remains anonymous, The Accusation has nevertheless already been translated into 18 languages and arrived in 20 countries. So, dear readers, take heart if you aspire to be a writer: there’s always an audience for your narrative.

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About Author

Queer, 20-something intersectional feminist, Vietnamese-American, and born fangirl. Writes about anything geeky and thinks about food too much. You can find Stephanie's Twitter rants at @YouAndYourEgo.

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