Mirrors and Reflections 05: Stories That Reflect Readers Back At Ourselves

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‘It’s the same old thing, isn’t it?’ he says. ‘All that we are not stares back at all that we are.’

Sometimes the imitation is brighter than the real.

All That I Am, Anna Funder

Some books aim not only to entertain but to exist as a mirror to the reader, asking readers to turn judgement inwards after first judging the main characters.

From a Goodreads review of All That I Am:

The main effect this book had on me was a deep sense of my own lack of similar courage...This book made me realise in what privileged and easy times we live today — and how little we are challenged to face the real life-and-death issues which are still there, even though they are invisible.

Hugo had no special voice for children. When he spoke to you he made you into your best self. [As if there is another self… on the assumption there is another self.]

I wonder, now, about interrogation chambers: why do they think bright light brings the truth out of people? They should try the seduction of shadows, where you cannot watch your words hit their target. [the juxtaposition of light and shadow]

But I must say it has been, in general, a boon not to have been a beautiful woman. Because I was barely looked at, I was free to do the looking. (Ruth: photographer, observer)

I wonder if this is the point.

Which children’s books are the most adept at doing this for the reader? We might start with books described as ‘subversive’. Subverting reader expectations (of genre, of gender, etc) is perhaps the best way of encouraging the reader to turn judgement inwards.

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