Jodi Picoult writes about things that matter. Her characters don’t often lead blessed lives, rather they struggle with challenges that you and I can only dream of. But the fact is, there are so many people out there for whom her stories are a reality. Bullying, teen suicide, domestic violence, gay rights, autism, she explores controversial issues through her writing and makes us explore them too, no matter how painful or ugly they may be. Her books are not easily forgotten, their messages tend to stay with you long after the last page. This is why I admire her as a writer, and it’s what I aspire to accomplish with my own work.
Needless to say, I was ecstatic when I had the chance to see her speak last night at the Free Library of Philadelphia. She read a passage from her new novel, The Storyteller, shared heartrending tales about the Holocaust survivors she interviewed for the book, and reminded us why it’s so important to continue passing these stories down through the generations.
During the Q&A, an older gentleman stood up and told her that he was there to ask a question on behalf of his wife who was too sick to attend (which, of course, melted my heart). He asked Jodi what her fame and fortune has allowed her to do that she wasn’t able to do before. She paused, no one had ever asked her this. She told us that her success has allowed her voice to be heard. This is why she writes about tough issues and rallies for change. She’s on a mission to make the world a better place, to help us open our minds and see things in a new light, to let us know that we’re not alone, to empower us, and to promote peace. To make a difference.
She said that all writers have a responsibility to think about how they want to use their voices, and she inspired me to think about my own. After some reflection, I’m able to verbalize what I’ve long felt in my heart: I want to write about topics of substance, examine the “gray” areas of morality, and shed light on forgotten people and overlooked suffering.
How do you want to use your voice?