The stories of our lives
It is tempting, these days, to run for cover, to desperately try to escape the airwaves dense with toxic tweets and spiteful comments, but, thankfully, just as the skies are at their darkest something inevitably happens to let in the sunshine, offer perspective and remind us of our resilience.
In this case that something came in the shape of a story - or two.
In his memoir, Plot 29, Allan Jenkins tells the story of how he and his brother Christopher grew up in foster homes, bouncing from one to the next until finally settling with an elderly couple in Devon who decided to change Allan’s name to theirs, while leaving Christopher with his birth name. “We are predisposed to love the lovable”, says Jenkins in this love letter to the brother he never truly felt he could protect and explains how this early experience of the human inclination to avoid the awkward and the "less lucky" among us has led to a conscious choice to especially and always “love the unworthy”.
I had the great pleasure of meeting Allan Jenkins last week at a joint event with Trine Hahnemann and was left with the indelible impression of a man whose every move, every decision, every life choice is directed by an urge to be the best person he can be, to always care and to always include. The loss, the hardships and the pain have in his hands and in his heart become a guiding force for good, for tenderness and for kindness.
His is truly a story of resilience and caring.
“I learned, I think, to love from seed.“ Jenkins says in his tribute to gardening which became his solace and saviour. “I make sure that no one who is close to me ever doubts their importance, not just to me, but their importance per say, as human beings.”
Across the Atlantic, on a mountainside in Idaho, Tara Westover grew up in a survivalist family focused mainly on preparing for the end of the world and staying as far away from the evils of Government as possible. This meant no school, no doctors and minimal contact with the outside world.
Tara Westover’s memoir Educated describes a childhood rooted in survival. The physical hardships are rivaled only by the emotional scars that leave a young woman forever doubting her own worth as she ventures out into the “outside world”. Even as she catapults herself all the way to Cambridge and Harvard, she never feels comfortable in her new skin.
The beauty of Tara Westover’s story, as hideous as it is at times, is that she, much like Allan Jenkins, has found an inner strength and much like him is on a quest to find, to do and to be something better. She is, albeit at first confused by kindness, grateful for the generosity she has been shown and when looking back at her own life and the characters who inhabit it she is careful to gaze through a lens of understanding and love.
So yes, there are noise polluters out there, many more it seems today than yesterday, but listen carefully and you will find among them beautiful voices that will stave off the need to hide away and strengthen the urge to embrace.
On that note, we are thrilled to announce that starting in late August we will be offering our first fiction writing course aptly named, Get Writing, with British novelist Liz Jensen.
So if you're not sure where to start, if you have hit a wall, or are just keen to hone your craft, then this might be just the place for you.
An exclusive six-week course in creative writing, featuring workshops, discussions, and exercises designed to challenge and inspire you.
Get Writing will help you discover your voice, structure a story, create compelling characters in vivid settings, and master the art of editing. Each two-hour session will include dynamic, on-the-spot writing exercises.
Liz Jensen is the British author of eight novels including The Rapture, The Uninvited, and the Hollywood-adapted The Ninth Life of Louis Drax. A passionate advocate of writing groups and workshops, she has worked as an editorial consultant and creative writing teacher on courses across the world.
The course will take place at Books & Company. To sign up, write a sentence about your writing ambitions and what you would like to take away from the course. Space is limited to ten students.
For more information about the course, price and times, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until then, we welcome any ideas and comments and look forward to seeing you at the shop.
Isabella & the staff of Books & Company