Whose Words Live in You?

A dream come true.

Non-fiction – that’s how I define my reading interest. Current evidence: I relish the privilege and pleasure of imagining myself in Winston Churchill’s lifetime via 1,053 pages of The Last Lion. I pledge to you that we owe the very freedoms we enjoy today to Churchill’s indomitable and unyielding courage. He expressed his unwavering determination to save Great Britain in brilliant prose. Churchill’s words lived actively in every Briton. Dedicating bits of my daily reading time to understanding the how the contribution a single person makes to the culture, the survival, the success of an entire people is a privilege.

My own writing style, though, leans heavily to creative non-fiction and not into the formidable task of meticulously documenting lives in historical accuracy. I like weaving stories around significant pieces of others’ lives to distinguish their contributions to their family, their friends, their world.

The dream. Colum McCann is my favorite author. I literally swoon through his paragraphs of metaphor so fluid, so poignant, that they deconstruct and transport my own sense of what’s possible as a writer. So a dream, indeed, came true when Colum spoke about his new book, Apeirogon, at Powell’s Books on Fri night.

McCann shouldered the extraordinary challenge of telling the stories of Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian, and Rami Elhanan, an Israeli, whose daughters were both killed – by rubber bullet, by suicide bomber – as ten- and fourteen-year-olds. Colum spent nearly five years getting to know the fathers, who are friends, then weaving a vast story “crossing centuries and continents, stitching together time, art, history, nature and politics.”

So, while my intent in posting was [is] to share the renewed inspiration of how another powerful writer lives in me, I now recognize an unexpected moment of beauty and synergy. For nearly a year I’ve been stymied about what perspective to use to write a dear friend’s story for her family.  In typing the words “weaving stories around significant pieces of others’ lives “, and in alert hesitation, the answer came through me.

We really do live in and through one another. McCann’s voice becomes my voice; his voice is the voice of Bassam and Rami. We speak for each other. Words matter. Stories create shared awareness of our commonality; stories matter.

Whose voice takes its shape and carries its meaning in you? What are you called to say, to write, that seeds who you are in others?

Use your voice.