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5 Books That Made Me Cry
Why would I write a reading list of books that will make you cry? These books have taken me on more powerful emotional journeys than any others I have read. Thy will grab you by the guts and won't let you go until they're good and done. Now that's good writing.
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
By Harriet Jacobs
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is an autobiography written by a woman born a slave in the deep South who spent her entire life trying to find, steal or earn her freedom. The book was written under the pseudonym Linda Brent in the year 1861. The pseudonym was used to protect Jacobs, and her daughters by a white man, from persecution and the ever-present threat of death, capture or abuse by her former owner. It is one of the most poignant, detailed and honest accounts of the lives and treatment of slaves in America’s deep south. Especially enslaved women. Jacobs doesn’t shy from descriptions of abuse, sexual exploitation and other brutalities that make you want to cry and vomit at the same time.
Although this book was published over 150 years ago it had fallen into obscurity until it was ‘rediscovered’ in the seventies. It has been reprinted many times since then. For many years, and even today, some believe that this book is a fictional narrative. There are many reasons for this, including a sensational account of “Linda” spending many years hiding in the roof of her family’s shed to escape her former owner. In my opinion the main reason this book was discounted as fictional for so many years was simply because it was written by a woman and focuses almost entirely on her family’s escape from slavery. It lacks the daring and adventurous exploits by handsome young men that would apparently make it more believable. Scholars have taken great pains to establish the book’s authenticity, and with the discovery of letters written by Jacobs to many of the leading figures in the civil rights movement the book is now accepted by most as an autobiography.
This book is sickening to read, especially knowing, as we do now, that it is a true account. I believe it is nonetheless very important, especially for young Americans, to read it get an understanding of the horrors and truths of the history of slavery in the Southern United States.
By Elie Weisel
It’s hard not to cry when reading just about anything set in Germany, or the surrounding countries, during the holocaust but Elie Weisel’s survivor’s account of life in the concentration camps is particularly difficult to get through. Weisel was a teenager when he was shipped off to concentration camps in Auschwitz and Buchenwald with his father. He grew up in a world where every aspect of humanity was turned inside out, where he witnessed the death of God inside himself.
The Nobel Prize winning novel is short, novella length, and fragmented in a way that gives it an uncomfortable proximity to the events and the state of mind that the young man was in as he cared for his dying father and grew to care less and less about the world and the people around him.
Phrases like, “They steal your humanity.” are often used when discussing concentration camps and the holocaust but never have I better understood the phrase than while reading Weisel’s gut-wrenching true story.
Originally Weisel had a hard time finding a publisher for his novel, which had started out as a nearly 300 page account in Yiddish. Publishers told him the book was too morbid but luckily someone recognized it’s importance and we have this incredible, yes morbid, yes horrific but more importantly honest, account of the degradation of humanity inside Nazi concentration camps.
The Kite Runner
By Khaled Hosseini
The Kite Runner is the story of a young boy named Amir coming of age in Kabul during the fall of Afghanistan’s monarchy, the Soviet invasion and the rise of the Taliban. Throughout the story, as the young boy grows up we see the stark difference between Amir’s affluent lifestyle and the life of his best friend and servant Hassan. Being a Canadian my perception of Afghanistan’s past has always been from the outside looking in. It was a great experience to see Afghanistan, and all of it’s strife, through the eyes of a young man who called it home.
Amir is very much an anti-hero throughout the novel. He deals with struggles that few of us would respond to gallantly and unlike most heroes he responds to them the way the rest of us might. Watching this brought me face to face with the reality of my own fears and cowardice. It makes it hard to judge Amir when you’re not certain you could find the strength within yourself to do any better.
This, perhaps, is the hardest part of the book. Through Amir’s many demons Hosseini forces us to see our own. There are a few scenes in particularly, especially earlier in the book, that hit me quite hard, but Hosseini doesn’t give you a moment’s respite from heartache and revulsion until you’ve turned the last page. The genius is almost nothing could have made me put that book down.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
By Stieg Larsson
If the theme of this book could be summarized as succinctly as possibly it would be with the phrase, “Sexual violence against women.” In fact, the original Swedish title was, Men Who Hate Women. So, perhaps you can already tell why is was so difficult to get through. Actually, I almost couldn’t. And though I recommend every other book on this list I can’t recommend this one. It is honest and graphic, yes, but I felt more traumatized by the materials therein than by any other book on this list. I could hardly get through it. It actually made me vomit.
The book is certianly well written, it’s incredibly engrossing, it’s all the things that a good book should be. If you can handle the incredibly graphic nature of scenes and descriptions of violence against women then by all means read it. Honestly, I wish I hadn’t.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
By J.K. Rowling
I thought I’d let you go with something a little lighter. Try to attain something like catharsis. Yes, believe it or not the last Harry Potter book made me cry. And so did the movie.
I read the first three or four Harry Potter books when they first came out. I think I was eight when I read The Philosopher’s Stone, which naturally, I loved. By the time I had finished the third book I had moved on to Atwood and Rushdie and just left Harry Potter behind.
Then, last year when my health had me in bed for months I turned to books that felt like old friends. They were fun, adventurous light reads…until about book 5. Then they got really intense. By the time I was reading the seventh book I was so invested in a couple of kids who had become adults with adult problems I felt like I didn’t even know what I was reading anymore. When did Harry Potter get so hardcore?
By the last book the characters are no longer dealing with bullies and school crushes. They are battling with the violent death of friends and families, corrupt politicians, and even suicide. I found myself gripping the book so hard my knuckles were turning white. Then, at that scene near the end, those of you who have read it (or seen the movie I suppose) will most likely know which one I mean, I was balling my eyes out. Poor Harry.
If you, too, gave up after the first few books or were old enough to have dismissed the whole series I would suggest you take a second look. If you stick with them those books offer an emotional punch you may not have expected alongside a couple of teenaged wand-slingers.