Wednesday, 19 March 2014

What books have changed public opinion?

When Canada Reads focused on finding a book that could change the nation, I questioned my friends about what books they knew that have changed public opinion.  Here are a few:

Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft wrote "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" in 1792. She argued that women are not naturally inferior, but lack education.
Equality of the sexes is a big topic and Mary was a pioneer in writing about this issue.

Harriet Beecher Stowe

The book that I would choose for this issue is "Uncle Tom's Cabin", written in 1852 by Harriet Beecher Stowe.  It was very popular as a novel as well as a play and energized anti-slavery forces in the American north, while causing anger in the south.  She wrote more than 20 books and was known for her public stand on social issues of the day.  I thought it was a very powerful book!

Rachel Carson

Perhaps the book that should have been chosen for Canada Reads about the environment is "Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson, written in 1962.
Rachel Carson was a marine biologist and she was concerned about the environment, specifically pesticides.  This book led to a ban on DDT and other pesticides. She also wrote about ocean life.

Sylvia Fraser
As Sylvia Fraser began to write her sixth novel, in 1989, about incest, she began recalling her own experience with her father, which had been concealed for 40 years by amnesia.  She recounts in her memoir, "My Father's House: a Memoir of Incest and Healing", how her personality had split in two with a second self that assumed the relationship with her father, and it surfaced in sudden rages and convulsions and sexual violence in her novels.
I have not read this book, but it was recommended as a book that had an affect on the public.

Farley Mowat

Farley Mowat, alive at 92, is a Canadian author and environmentalist.
His book "Never Cry Wolf", written in 1963 was made into a film and is credited with changing the public opinion of wolves. His books have been translated into 52 languages and sold more than 17 million books. 
We read this book in one of my book clubs.

Anna Sewell

Another book club choice was "Black Beauty" by Anna Sewell, written in 1877. Anna came from a Quaker family in England. Because of mobility problems, she used horse-drawn carriages.  She began to love horses and was motivated to attempt to change public opinion on the treatment of animals.

Jane Jacobs

Wow!  There are so many aspects of life to be passionate about and write about.  Jane Jacobs wrote about urban renewal and changed the way that cities are planned in her book "The Death and Life of Great American Cities".
She moved to Canada in 1968 and joined the opposition to the Spadina Expressway and the network of expressways in Toronto.  In the male-dominated field of urban planning, she was called a 'crazy dame'. But she did make a difference!

I could go on and on and on.  My friends had lots of ideas!  I guess books really can change public opinion and therefore change the nation.

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