Mimi the Librarian’s Recommended Reading List
In Georgia Briggs’ book Icon, twelve-year old Euphrosyne has been renamed Hillary by the anti-religious government in the new “Era of Tolerance.” Her family has been killed, on Pascha (Easter) night, and she goes to live with her grandparents. Her teachers, psychologist, and even her grandfather want her to forget her past life and embrace the new secular tolerance. Euphrosyne struggles to hold onto her faith and identity in a new America hostile to religion. The one bright spot in her life is Mimi the Public Librarian, who provides thoughtful books which encourage Euphrosyne. Of course, it’s only a matter of time before these books are censored by the new government . . .
Mimi doesn’t work at the Library anymore, but I offer you her Booklist, supplemented by a few titles of my own:
A Tween and Teen Guide to Dystopian Societies (and surviving our own, too)
Anderson, Laurie Halse. Speak. High school is hard enough without being outcast, too. Freshman Melinda Sordino carries a dark secret. It is only when she learns to speak her truth that she can find true healing.
L’Engle, Madeleine. A Wrinkle In Time. Meg Murray’s father has gone missing, and she and her brother Charles Wallace travel across space and time to find him. She battles the monstrous IT and saves her brother and father through the power of love. Chapters 9 and 12 are some of my favorite pages in all of literature. (I sometimes use Meg’s technique from Chapter 9 to ward off intrusive thoughts.)
Lewis, C.S. The Chronicles of Narnia. This beloved fantasy series is enjoyable on its own merits and is also well known for its Christian allegories. In Euphrosyne and Mimi’s world, it is outlawed. In his essay “On Three Ways of Writing For Children” C. S. Lewis wrote: “Since it is so likely that [children] will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.” He provides these brave child-heroes and child-heroines in his classic Narnia tales.
Butler, Alban. Butler’s Lives of the Saints. 4 Volumes; arranged chronologically by saints’ days. The classic reference book on Eastern and Western pre- and post-schism saints. Offers a saint (often more than one) for every day of the year. I wish Mimi had shown Euphrosyne this book. The life of St. Hilary of Poitier, although not Euphrosyne’s patron or true namesake, might still have encouraged her. St. Hilary is best known for fighting heresy and enduring exile for the Christian faith. Available in many medium-to-large public libraries. A close second is the Catholic Encyclopedia, originally available in print, but now available online at http://newadvent.org/cathen/
Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I especially want to get my hands on The Original Folk & Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm : the Complete First Edition translated & edited by Jack Zipes (2014) but really any edition will do. Stay away from sanitized, Disneyified versions. C.S. Lewis wrote about the importance of fairy tales in order to teach children hope and justice: “let there be wicked kings and beheadings, battles and dungeons, and let villains be soundly killed at the end of the book.”
Shakespeare, William. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Now available online at http://shakespeare.mit.edu/ All the Savage from Brave New World had to read on his reservation was William Shakespeare, and that’s good enough for me. One of my favorite Shakespeare quotations is from the play The Winter’s Tale: “It is an heretic that makes the fire, / Not she which burns in’t”
Go forth and read. Books, like Georgia Briggs’ Icon, have the power to inspire and transform. And give us courage to face our post-modern, dystopian lives.