What’s a Book That Changed Your Mind?

For Novel Gazing, submit your essays on the stories that shifted your opinion

One of the things I’m proudest of, as a writer, is that I have personally broken up at least two marriages.

Not on purpose! I barely knew these people at the time. But I wrote an essay about my own divorce, and apparently it has tipped a few people over the line from “I’m not happy” to “I’m not happy and it’s okay to treat that as significant.” I have nothing against marriage, but I do want people to feel empowered to change—and beyond that, I take some pride in being able to help them change, just through words on a screen. It feels like a testament to the idea that writing is important, that reading the right thing at the right time can shift your whole story.

It’s hard for writers to feel they’re making a material difference in people’s lives. It’s hard for anyone to feel that way. The experience of consuming and engaging with media at our particular time in history can often feel like a lot of pointless yelling—yelling at imaginary opponents, getting yelled at by people who you know are wrong, yelling to people who already agree with you about how stupid people who don’t agree with you are. Everyone is very loud and opinionated and nobody is ever convinced. But every so often, something—a book, a movie, a song—gets through, and something clicks, and everything is different.

For this round of Novel Gazing, Electric Lit’s personal essay series about the way stories shape our lives, tell us about a book (or movie, or show, or other narrative media) that shifted your opinion. This could be a huge change—the book that convinced you God existed, or didn’t; the play that altered your political perspective; the movie that convinced you to have kids—or a small one. Tell us about the stories that revolutionized your outlook on your family, on your career, on your own creative output. Tell us about the opinions you thought were unshakeable, until you encountered the story that turned everything upside down.

You may want to read some earlier Novel Gazing essays to get a feel for the series. Some recent favorites include essays about moving on from grief with the help of an AIDS memoir, about learning the wrong lessons from 200-year-old erotica, and about realizing that the romances of young adult literature aren’t written for you.

Essays should not be longer than 4,000 words or shorter than 800, and payment is $100 per piece. Submissions will remain open until 11:59 p.m. on March 24.

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