Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the day “October 17, 2010”

Books That Matter: Writing to Change the World – Mary Pipher

You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world… The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way… people look at reality, then you can change it.” James Baldwin

I love this quote and so does Mary Pipher. Her book Writing to Change the World offers, in her own words, a guide to changing the world one “Baldwin Millimeter” at a time. She presents many inspirational quotes and examples.

This book is less of a how-to and more of an opening of the heart. It is the feeling that motivates so many of us, and serves as a reminder when we forget it or prioritize other things such as sales, market requirements, fame and fortune.

My only disappointment with this book is that it only covers non-fiction. I would have liked to revel in the impact that such novels as Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, or George Orwell’s 1984, have had. Maybe I can write it after a few best selling political advocacy novels!

Still, I did enjoy the down-to-earth way that Pipher offers advice on how to write articles, letters, speeches, personal essays etc. The fact that she never allows herself to lose sight of the need to offer practical applications for the different ways we can influence the world with the quill, well keyboard. I find this both commendable and helpful. Finally, in her own words:

“Words are the most powerful tools at our disposal. With them, writers have saved lives and taken them, brought justice and confounded it, started wars and ended them. Writers can change the way we think and transform our definitions of right and wrong.”

For more on Mary Pipher, please click here for her website.


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com


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