How the world seems black and white these days. The good side and the bad side, crisp against each other, like a highly contrasted old photograph. Progressive ideas silhouetted against conservative ones, the educated against the ignorant, the young against the old, the privileged and the oppressed, the goodies and the baddies.
Big debates take place on Twitter, where everyone struggles to encompass the complexity of human experience within a hundred and forty words. News are shocking, crafted to enrage the reader. “It’s the immigrants’ fault”, a newspaper roars. “It’s the white man’s fault”, a video screams. “It’s the end of the world. We are all scum.”, a third website assures everyone.
In such a background, the book “Little Fires Everywhere”, by Celeste Ng, felt like a fresh balm on my feverish head. I sorely needed a book where, just like in real life, there are no villains and no goodies. Just people, imperfect people who make mistakes, who love, who are scared.
In this book, no judgements are made. Everyone is so different, and yet we can feel the plight of each and every person. We can suffer with the affluent couple who cannot bear a child and we can cry with the young Chinese immigrant who left her baby by the fire station, in one moment of desperation. We feel the sadness of the moody teenager and sorrows of the popular one. We can be reminded of what we knew all along - evil vs good is a fantasy, and probably none of us would go to heaven – or to hell – if such places existed after death.
We are what our humanity makes us – fragile, contradictory beings, little fires longing for love, appreciation, safety, happiness, meaning. I have always found that books are the best tools to make me understand this truth, and it felt reassuring to read a book published in 2017 that does it so well. It is not a complicated book, full of long words and complex concepts. It is an almost deceptively simple story, happening the the american suburbia, easy to read. And that is what makes me happy - there are enough complex books that pass the message of equality. What I want to see more is this message present in simple, unassuming books, with beautiful stories that anyone can follow and relate to.
If you have read it, I would love to know what you thought. And always feel free to send me recommendation for books you love, either in the comments or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I am constantly searching for my next favourite book.