Books that Made You Brave

In the "Books that Made You" series, we're taking a look at the books that made us who we are. Bravery is on our minds in the wake of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's courageous testimonywhere it comes from, how it surges and supports us, the doors it opens. Bravery can be contagious, and we need it now in order to speak up, to defend ourselves and others, and to move forward together into a better future. Here at GrubStreet, we are strong believers in the power of literature to inspire, educate, and embolden. To that end, for this edition of our "Books That Made You Series," we asked you what book made you brave. After scrutinizing our highly scientific social media poll, we present to you this non-exhaustive list of books that inspire bravery in us.


 

Grub Instructor Kelly Dalke says, "Julie Orringer's collection, How to Breathe Underwater, made me feel brave enough to write adult literary fiction with a child or adolescent protagonist!"

 

YAWP Intern Connor Hager describes Nightshade by Andrea Cremer as "the first book that I ever read with LGBT+ characters, and the first book that showed me how I could combine my love for animals and writing."

 

"Reading The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson made me brave during a time when I was about to pursue being a future stepmom and a wife—roles I never really imagined inhabiting," says Grub Development Manager Alyssa Mazzarella. "Nelson's own story, and the ideas she wove with them as she searched for understanding herself, made me feel like I could have a family and a partner without having to feel shamed or constricted by the many images and expectations I had gathered over the years about creating a heteronormative, biologically-bound nuclear family. The Argonauts allowed me to expand my heart and my life to make room for loves and joys I couldn't have imagined."

 


"Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic was a light when I read it," says Grub Instructor Anneli Matheson. "Her perspective on fear is so refreshing—I am quoting a version of her approach in my YAWP classes right now."

 

"Completely maddening but pure art!" says Grub Instructor Colwill Brown of Samuel Beckett's Molloy. "Made me brave enough to experiment in my own work and gave me a sense of what is possible in fiction."

 

GrubStreet Marketing Intern Mariana Cabral recommends Like The Flowing River, a collection of reflection by Paulo Coelho. "At the time [I read this], I was struggling with anxiety. I wasn't giving myself, my work, and my accomplishments any credit. Coelho's essays really helped me snap out of this negative thought process because he highlights the beauty of even the most minuscule moments in our lives. He tackles life with such gratitude and courage, which made me more present than I had been in a long time. I find myself referring to his reflections again whenever I'm feeling less brave."

 

Novel Generator student Cameron Dryden was spurred on by The Terrible Hours by Peter Maas. "How Navy Engineer Swede Momsen single-handedly invented most modern diving equipment to rescue trapped submariners inspired me as an engineer."

 

GrubWrites Blog Intern Sarah Sturman says, "Jack Finney's short story The Other Wife (or, The Coin Collector) was one of the first works of literature I analyzed on a craft level. The process made me realize that there was a method behind those smooth words that made me so emotional. Knowing that the mystery of good literature could be broken down into parts gave me the courage to study writing at a higher level."

 

"Lucy Grealy's memoir, Autobiography of a Face, about her childhood experience with cancer of the jaw, showed me the bravery that comes from exposing vulnerability on the page," says Literary Cultural District Director Alysia Abbott. "I also had the opportunity to work with Lucy when I was pursuing my MFA in creative nonfiction at the New School. Her high expectations of me and other students pushed me to go deeper in my writing, to try and write the unwriteable and not "wimp out" when the story got difficult. During the course of our year in class together I saw her face transform week to week as she had different surgeries to graft skin on onto her jawline to shape her face into a form that was more socially acceptable. Throughout all of this she kept teaching, kept pushing us to be the best writers we could be. I thought she was so strong but she struggled too. Six months before we graduated from the program she took her life. I still feel her influence."

 

 

 

 

 

Missed our last post? Never fear! Check out the whole "Books that Made You" series here.

About the Author

As Editor of GrubWrites, GrubStreet's popular blog, Colwill serves the Grub community a daily dose of literary goodness. Book lovers can find reviews, news, recommendations, and conversations with exciting new authors to stay up to speed on all things lit. Writers, GrubWrites is your go-to spot for expert craft talk, thoughtful discussions on how writing is learned and taught, and essential publishing and publicity advice. Colwill is also a GrubStreet instructor and consultant specializing in the novel.

 

Colwill is Writer-in-Residence at Wellspring House, and a recipient of the work-study scholarship for the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and the Henry Blackwell Essay Prize. Her creative work has appeared or is forthcoming in Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet (Press 53, fall 2018), Solstice Literary Magazine, The Conium Review, Poetry and Audience, and other places, and her essays have featured on Dead Darlings and elsewhere. She's served on the editorial team for Post Road magazine and The Conium Review and is currently Fiction Editor at Pangyrus magazine. A scholarship awardee for GrubStreet's Novel Incubator, after graduating from the program Colwill found representation for her first novel with literary agent Robert Guinsler of Sterling Lord Literistic. She was educated at Leeds University in England, where she received her BA hons in English Language and Literature (International), with stints at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Kansas State University’s Graduate Creative Writing Program, where she was awarded the Seaton Graduate Fellowship in Creative Writing. Most recently, Colwill completed a Master's degree in English Literature at Boston College, for which she was awarded a full scholarship. Hailing from Yorkshire, England, her life's mission is to introduce the word "sozzard" to the American vernacular. For a full list of publications, projects, and other services, including copy editing, please visit colwillbrown.com.

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