April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. While a difficult and uncomfortable topic for many to discuss, rape is a deep-seated and prevalent issue that has the ability to harm society just as much as any individual victim. Sexual assault affects everyone; no gender, class, ethnicity, or education can ensure absolute safety. Trauma narratives are as varied and unique as the people that tell them, and in this way, have the opportunity not only to allow survivors a chance to externalize and make sense of their own experiences, but also allow for those experiences to find themselves in a larger framework, eventually leading to a broader understanding about the very real and long term psychological effects of sexual assault.
I often get asked “Why do you always read such depressing books?” My answer, succinctly, is that I don’t find “depressing” books, well, depressing. I’ll be the first to admit that I tend to favor fiction with content that others may deem dark or upsetting, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth reading. In fact, that might be the exact reason literature of this sort is worth seeing through to the end. After all, what one reader considers dark or upsetting, another might find beautiful, hopeful, and moving.
Another reason I read tragic fiction is simply that I am in the mood for it. The same way someone going through a breakup might intentionally seek out heart-wrenching songs, I seek out fiction that has the potential to bring on a nice cathartic cry. More often than not, I don’t read to be in a good mood, I read to feel something. We are not happy all the time, and I don’t think we don’t need to relegate ourselves to reading books that are. I would even argue that, for the most part, tragic fiction merely tells the story of an ordinary person navigating common life events, that just so happen to alter their lives forever. If the mark of a tragic novel is the fact that the main character dies, or experiences a great loss, well then, life itself is a tragedy. Continue reading ““This Will Not End Well:” The Appeal of Tragic Fiction”