Thursday, November 5, 2009

Optimism for the Future of Books!

This month, on one glorious day, I had two blow-you-away experiences that completely revived my hope for books, authors, and even, GASP, the future of publishing.

First, on In a Word, we had the great pleasure to talk to San Ramon author, Mahbod Seraji about his wonderful book, Rooftops of Tehran. Seraji’s story is one that many aspiring writers can relate to…

He always wanted to be a writer, hooked at an early age by Jack London’s White Fang. After much struggle, and various academic degrees and careers, at the age of 50-something he published his first novel—the story he was meant to tell—a semi-autobiographical tale of romance, politics and coming of age during the last days of the Shah of Iran.

And, not only did he achieve his dream of telling his story, but his book has been wildly successful! Critically-acclaimed, in the second printing and over 40,000 copies sold! (Which, BTW, for any author, let alone an unknown first-time author, is phenomenal!)

Dreams really can come true.

And then, as luck would have it, later that very same day, I took my son to see his favorite author of all time, Jeff Kinney, creator of the Wimpy Kid series. And, get this, he had a bus as big as any rock star!

Seeing the piles and piles of kids in line, many of whom may not be big literary type of readers, who are just in love with the Wimpy Kid character, who have discovered their own joy in reading, even if it’s layered with fart jokes and lots of comic drawing, it reminds me of the importance and the power of the written word, even if, and maybe, especially if, it’s not something considered “literature” by the so-called experts.

What an incredible day!! with the theme of the power of books to both connect us to one another and, also, to take us beyond our everyday lives into worlds that we would never otherwise know. Whether you are writing or reading literary fiction about the history of Iran or a graphic novel about a wimpy fourth grader—books give us the intangibles we long for—empathy, adventure, laughter, connection.

And that is the power of Mahbod Seraji and Jeff Kinney and all of the readers who love them and their stories.

And that gives me hope.