If your school career was anything like mine, it will have been drilled into you from a young age that you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover.
But it would seem many of us still rate a novel’s merit on the ethnicity of its writer.
According the black author Candice Carty-Williams, publishing remains a ‘white middle class industry’ with little recognition of its non-white contributors from ethnic backgrounds.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4, The ‘Queenie’ author talked about the lack of recognition for black writers, the morning after she won overall book of the year at the British Book Awards, making her the first black woman to win the accolade.
And it got me thinking about the way we judge others in a general sense, and perhaps more importantly, about how we judge ourselves.
I know I for one am guilty of imparting on others the judgements I hold about myself. I assume people look down on me for the aspects of my life or past that I am ashamed of. But that’s only my own opinion and fear of being judged poorly and I’m trying hard to challenge it.
A friend recently shared with me that she too had gone through a time in her life when there were things about herself of which she was ashamed. But her faith in God helped her through. She told me that Jesus is not ashamed of me and that if I put my faith in him he will remove my shame too.
Now, I’m not a religious person. I never have been. But I do envy the people I know who have found God and seem to be so much more at peace. It is, after all, a comforting idea that someone somewhere out there is looking out for each of us, no questions asked, and guiding us in the right direction.
So I’m giving it a go. That’s not to say I’ve got my nose in a Bible or that I’ll suddenly start preaching from the rooftops. But I’ve started reading a book of short stories by people who have overcome adversity with the help of their faith.
The book, simply called Stories, is a compilation of extracts from King’s Church, Newport attendees writing openly and truthfully about their experiences. And it is followed by some really eye opening questions to encourage self-reflection.
It’s given me the opportunity to explore the way my past shaped how I think and behave and feel a connection with the people behind the extracts. There’s no preaching, no forcing opinions or beliefs on others, just a series of normal people – most of whom I’ve found I have at least one thing in common with.
Do I judge the authors? No. I am inspired by their strength in overcoming hardship to lead happy, fulfilled life.
And perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but I began by opening on a random page and reading a page. One per day, and answering the questions that followed. Every single one read like an extract from my own story. I’m willing to consider the belief that it wasn’t just coincidence that drew me to them, so I can stop judging myself and feeling shame.