A Diversity of Perspectives

In honor of Black History Month, I've tried to include in my readings some classics by African-American authors.  My wish list is obviously longer than can be addressed in one month, so I look forward to continuing on beyond this month.  But I'm glad that I was able to get through or am currently reading Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man," and "Minnie's Sacrifice" by Frances Harper.

All three are not just books that happen to be written by black authors but books that speak to the black experience at different times in American history.  These are perspectives that are new to me. both in the sense that they are not my own personal history nor are they material that I have previously digested.

Absorbing a diversity of perspectives takes intentional effort.  Consciously and sub-consciously, we filter the world through our own lens, or seek out lenses like ours.  Reading Angelou, Ellison, Harper and others has made me richer.  Not just because I understand their perspectives a little better now.  But also because I am reminded that there are other perspectives out there besides mine and those similar to mine.

It may seem obvious, but I venture to say that much of our misunderstandings today stem from the fact we view other people's words/actions/positions from our own frame of reference rather than from theirs.  I daresay that sometimes we can get so stuck on our own viewpoint that we forget that other people, having had different life experiences than we have had, can have different viewpoints.

By reading authors whose life perspective is different than ours, we are brought into that life perspective.  We absorb their interpretations, their responses, their emotions.  We do not become them, to be sure; we remain ourselves.  We may even leave their books unchanged in how we view the world.  But at the very least, we have been reminded that there are other perspectives out there beyond our own.  And, if it's a good book, we will have been refreshed, challenged, and inspired by those perspectives.

I read for pleasure, and what I find pleasurable is based on my likes, which are different from others'.  But I also read to be richer, in wisdom and in the awareness of a wider range of human experiences.  Good African-American literature like what I've had the pleasure of digesting this month so far has been both pleasurable and enriching.
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