I just finished The Tyrant’s Daughter by J. C. Carleson. I read it for book club and am once again surprised by how relevant a book can be. I don’t know how books chosen almost a year in advance can be so timely.
The book is about a girl who lived in a nonspecific country believing her father was king. With her father’s assassination, she and her surviving family are brought to America for their safety, and she removes her veil – literally and figuratively. Seeing her world from a different perspective is life changing.
I can’t help but think of all the protests and unrest in my own country. I hesitate to go on because I don’t want to think about politics, but this book is simply too good to ignore. It simply screams out the obvious connection to me.
I have been living in an arena where the loudspeakers are blaring and I can’t possibly put enough earplugs in to be able to hear my own thoughts. People are shouting, “You are prejudiced, you just don’t realize it.” They preach on and on about how my life is lived in an oblivious manner without any thought of the plight of others. Black lives matter, police lives matter, women matter, babies matter, homosexuals matter, and on and on the sound bites play until I feel my head might explode.
I want to whisper, we all matter. I want to whisper it because I have found that whispering often gets the attention of those who speak the loudest. But I fear nobody will hear my whispers, or perhaps I simply fear those who hear me will only continue to find more ways to drown out my thoughts. Thus, I remain silent.
I read this book. As I read it I thought about how interesting it was that this young lady (15 I think) had to face the fact that not everything she grew up understanding to be truth, was in fact truth. Even her beloved childhood fairy tales took on a darkened hue after seeing how the world of the United States was so altered from her world in that unspecified country. I have to face the fact that I am who I am because of the life I have lived.
Three things come to mind:
- I have always had family who loved me. ALWAYS! My parents loved each other and stood by each other through the often tumultuous times raising all of us. They never wavered in their devotion to God, each other, or any of us who came from that love. I do not know what it is like to live with a single parent because of divorce or death. I hate to even try to imagine living without any family at all.
- I have always had a house. When I was young, we had a house in the suburbs AND a cabin in the woods. Now that I am older, and paying my own bills, the idea of having two homes is just a fantasy; but, I have always had a place to find shelter from whatever the weather brings. I don’t really know what it would be like to sleep in streets, back alleys, or woods without a tent. I don’t know what it is like to have to rely on the kindness of others so I might have a place to rest my head.
- I have never been truly hungry. Though my offspring may tell you differently, my kitchen is well-stocked with food that only needs a little creativity and effort to turn into a meal. It may not always be a gourmet feast, but it is at least edible.
Though I don’t know what it is like to be hungry, homeless, or unloved from experience, it does not mean I don’t have compassion for those who do. I don’t know what else to say other than, we don’t have to be starving artists in order to appreciate the beauty of art.
As I read The Tyrant’s Daughter, I couldn’t help but be reminded that all of the characters had their flaws and their own struggles to surmount. None of their deeds were more valiant than the deeds of others. None of the characters stood out as significantly better or worse than the others, though some did do horrible acts. They were simply what they were raised to be. They were who they were based on the lives they lived and their experiences.
I started to think about those who would tell me that I simply cannot understand their plight, and I came to one conclusion – they are right. I don’t know what it is like to be anyone other than myself, and the truth is, none of them know what it is like to be me.
We don’t need to try to understand the life of others. We don’t need to try to change the way others think. We simply need to stop blaming others and start making changes in our own lives.
My parents used to tell me that until you are 18 you can blame others for the horrible life you live. Once you are 18, you should stop blaming others and take responsibility for yourself. Take steps to improve your world, even if it is only in your own mind.
This book ends with the main character taking small steps. I am not sure I have a clear vision of what the world will be like for her as time goes on, and perhaps that is the best part of the book. It leaves the ending up to the interpretation of the reader. I always choose the happy ending. I have yet to figure out how it becomes a happy ending, but I hope someday I will. Just as I hope we all will someday view the world in a pleasant way and stop looking for the darkness.