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The Daily Juggle

Challenging stereotypes and norms

/ Jan 24, 2013 6:44AM / Print / ()

Challenging stereotypes and norms

I read all day and night, every day of the year. But unless I'm officially on leave I rarely find the time to read much other than the websites I publish and the day's news - its been at least a year since I read a book from cover to cover. There are four books currently on my bedside table that have been part-read. I hope to finish them eventually.

So for a book to grab my complete attention and be read in four days straight on minimum sleep, it has to be compelling. The first book I read in 2013 was In One Person by John Irving and I recommend that everyone read it.

I will declare my hand as an Irving fan. Some of my closest friends are too. A new Irving book is like a mini event in our lives. Within my circle of Irving fans, the new book was read in Taree, Cambodia, Surry Hills, Santorini and on a Pacific cruise.

I discovered the work of John Irving as a teenager with the film The World According To Garp. I enjoyed the movie so read the book and immediately became a voracious reader of his back catalogue and then all that followed.

Irving is often criticised for creating leading characters that represent minority groups and making them seem "normal". That's precisely what he does and why his books are important.

In One Person deals with the life of a young man who discovers he is attracted to men and women, and versions of both, as he hits puberty. Irving has stated that the story deals with desire and what that could look like if we all acted on our sexual impulses as freely as the book's main character Billy Abbott. But for me the story was more about other people's intolerance of his sexual choices, especially his love for the older transgender former captain of wrestling turned local librarian.

Irving's books encompass the life journey of its main character so we meet Billy as a young boy and the book ends when he is in his late sixties. Billy's main character flaw appears to be his intolerance for those who were intolerant of his choices, a free character analysis delivered by his step-father in a touching moment following the death of his mother.

I have recommended this book to friends and colleagues whose courage I admire. I have also suggested it to people who I believe will benefit from having their perspective of normal challenged. It's an awakening that's required from the bedroom to the boardroom as we continue the push forward to smash stereotypes and challenge the concept of normal.

Have you had to challenge a view of workplace norms?

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