What’s true about fiction

Among my earliest memories are the storybooks my mother read me. Both parents, in fact, modelled that books were important and worth spending time on. My mother, who with eight children never kept up with her housework, would leave tasks unfinished in the evenings, and sit and read.

While we children might be reading stories, however, she read “Christian” books, that is, of a devotional or theological nature, or if story-based, tales of missionaries or other spiritual stalwarts. Somewhere, perhaps from her example, and from admonitions I must have heard in the wider church community, I gathered that one advanced from “made up” stories to the “real” and more solid meat of books such as those as one progressed into maturity. It had to do with the adult requirement of being useful, I suppose.

Art card: "Alice in Wonderland" by George Dunlop Leslie


Not that long ago, in reference to the reading habits of some of her peers in the seniors’ home, whose fare was mostly fiction,  my mother muttered impatiently, “I like to read what’s true!”

Another time she sighed, “I can’t help it that I like to read what’s real.”

She forgets, in those moments, that I, her daughter, have not only persisted in reading fiction, I’m involved in writing it. I don’t take it personally, however, for she is among the most affirming of mothers when it comes to the endeavours of her children. Her resistance to fiction, and the subtext her remarks contain about ranking kinds of reading, and even her definitions of “real” or “true,” are what she absorbed in her upbringing and church environment. It fits the earnestness that life in this environment seems to require. Continue reading