Marie Antoinette’s famous quote “Let them eat cake” lives in our psyche as a widget of well-placed morality versus superficiality, and although there’s no record of her actually having said it, the verbiage sticks as if it’s been etched into history’s mighty stone. Despite the sweetness of cake, this statement still sits on the sour tongue of an iconic view of societal privilege among the commonwealth.
Bear in mind, that my focus on her supposed statement didn’t go down in history as the most stately of declarations, but I digress, as I take a literary spin on a most heinous of verbal transgressions. Perhaps things would have gone over better and history might have taken a more forgiving slant if she’d said something more along the lines of, “Let them read books!”
I’ve recently come to realize that books might be the one thing that can still stand up against oppression and inequality. A book can open a chapter on thinking and forge new alliances between alternate perspectives. Books can populate an army born of think tanks to hold the norms and sterile minds accountable.
Today, we are surrounded by subtractive commentary echoing Marie’s empty words. The mindless chit-chat circulating inside the big top of the Social Media circus can be downright zombifying. It tends to play on our more shallow selves, turning our minds and attention to mushy piles of parading paralysis. Few words, no action.
A book has a seed. It plants that seed generously, without placing judgment or placating to an unfair advantage for the reader who might be reading it. I think about my experience recently reading The Hate You Give. From where I sat on the throne of my own personal briar patch, I see how fortunate I am to have had the opportunity to read this story, take in its sincere value and hopefully go back into the world seeing things differently because of it. I am changed by the words author Angie Thomas has given me. My conscience is captivated, and I accept the responsibility of this gift as I share it out willingly with others. To embrace the altered ego I confront as I sit on one side of the aisle of privilege and having experienced the world inside a story like this is an honor.
Books are the key. Access to books, sharing books, teaching what we learn from books, and living out the painful, beautifully carved out journeys inside a story can fill us up. A book can be the crowbar to enact change for the betterment of all people. Throwing cake at the problem only serves to sugarcoat the issues. But when we shine the light on disparity and fear existing in our world by spotlighting it with a book, our senses become keener, our grief more actionable, and we can find clarity to move one step closer toward revolutionary solutions.
This post is in part to thank the brave ‘Soul’ writers that speak to us. And in an