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In the 1920s, a 17-year-old boy named Richard Wright was starved for books. Broke, black, living in the Deep South, he wasn’t allowed to use the library. So he talked an Irish Catholic co-worker into letting him borrow his library card. Then, he forged a note for the librarian. “Dear Madam: Will you please let this nigger boy have some books by H. L. Mencken?”

He “walked out with a copy of a book that would change the course of his life” (per Ryan Holiday). Not long after that, Wright caught a train to Chicago “before he would irretrievably overstep the bounds of Jim Crow restrictions.”

Wright eventually became a famed author. It might not have happened if it weren’t for the risk he took, the book he borrowed.

Pay attention to the media you consume. Reruns of Parks and Rec are funny. Books can alter the very trajectory of our lives.

Photo credit: Gordon Parks, 1943.

Fredrick Marion

Fredrick Marion

I like books that refuse to let you sleep at night. I like coffee, talking animals and hearing from readers. Sign up for my email newsletter, and I’ll send my latest blog posts to your inbox!

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