My Favorite Authors, and How They've Inspired Me to Write
With each generation of Americans, remarkable and inspiring authors emerge and take place amongst our long list of greats. This country’s history has produced many incredible and influential authors, and there are so many works of writing which are a vital part of that history in itself. Writing helped us seize our independence and forge our identity, and then continued to direct us towards our goals. President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Addresscontinues to inspire Americans to greatness, and is still studied in classrooms all over the nation. For me, this speech has had a profound effect on my life; it has given me a better understanding of my civic responsibility as an American. One patriotic action everyone should take is participating in voting in both local and federal elections. Less than a hundred days, the nation is going to have presidential elections.
The writers who make up the American literary legacy have always been very aware and attuned to history. They knew who came before them, and learned from them, took inspiration from them - maybe even argued against them. One of these especially conscientious writers is Walt Whitman, considered the “father of free verse” in the 18th century. As a young scholar, I find comfort in the works of Whitman. Even today, I find myself re-reading his poem, “I Hear America Singing” and Leaves of Grass. Whitman's lyrics about life and nature are influential to me, and his succinct style is sure to reach and inspire any frustrated writer.
After finishing up with high school, I began to seek more contemporary writing. As a young person coming into adulthood, one begins to search for deeper meaning in their life in more modern and relatable material. However, I am not arguing against the literature we read in high school; our instructors did an excellent job in presenting us with important literature that challenged our views. Richard Wright is one of the authors that I was introduced to in high school, whose writing continues to influence me today. And it clearly continues to influence many others too; his work, Native Son (1940), was recently adapted into a Hulu series, and he’s even promoted by Vice President Kamala Harris, with Native Son boasting a place on her favorite books list. Wright’s memoir, Black Boy (1945), tells of his upbringing in the South during segregation, and his experience finding his voice as a writer in Chicago. Wright's work helped me to better understand the racial history of African-Americans during the Jim Crow era, and to be more attuned to issues that still exist. The demand for social justice persists today, and with the powerful surge of the Black Lives Matter movement pushes the issue, perhaps we will soon see the emergence of the next, great American author.
One more notable writer worth reading is Irish-American poet and memoirist Lucy Grealy. Her most notable work was Autobiography of a Face in 1994, a memoir about her experience with childhood cancer and disfigurement, and about her following struggle to find her identity. Her search for identity deals not only with the physical change she underwent, but also with her background as an Irish immigrant within the American middle class. The hardships she endured were incredible, and she conveys them in a manner which is all the more moving and heartbreaking. At one point, she says that, “...her pain being ugly made her cancer minor.” Grealy's provoking story and writing remind me that, regardless of what I am going through, my writing can reach others and inspire them to greatness.
Growing up in Southern California, I quickly found out about Charles Bukowski's work by booksellers and disfranchised University lectures. As a young adult, Bukowski helped me to understand the urban landscape of Los Angeles better. His books help one to better understand the working person's drive to work during difficult times. Bukowski has a vast collection of poetry and novels. His novel Factotum published by Black Sparrow Press is a great book to begin to explore his unique style of storytelling about life and nature.
In the end, as writers, we are the masters of our message. But it takes time to create the right vessel for that message, and sometimes, we don’t even have the vaguest idea of how we want it to be. It’s easy for everything to just freeze up - to feel like you can’t wrench a single word from your brain, or like there isn’t even anything there at all. And with the pandemic disrupting all normalcy, there may be total disorder. But even in physical isolation, through writing, we remain connected. If you are struggling to write, reach out - look to the works of your peers and predecessors to find inspiration and direction, just as the greatest authors before us have done. Centuries may grow between a reader and an author, but writing transcends this effortlessly, and allows that we never truly have to be alone.