The book that changed your life: Billie Livingston

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      With this year’s edition of the Word on the Street festival set to run from September 28 to 30, we asked some of the writers on the wildly diverse bill to tell us about the reading experiences that shaped them. Which book left deep impressions early on? Which one overhauled the way they see and think about the world, and set them on a path to a literary life?

      Here’s what Billie Livingston told us. She’s the award-winning author of the short-story collection Greedy Little Eyes, as well as the new novel One Good Hustle.

      Livingston will be reading from her work at 12:20 p.m. on September 30, in the Authors Tent outside the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library.

      There is no single book that changed my life, but I can tell you about a book that made an early impression.

      I borrowed Go Ask Alice by Anonymous (aka Beatrice Sparks) from the school library when I was nine years old. My usually liberal-minded mother took it away because, she said, "it glorifies drugs." (Ironic considering it was meant to be an antidrug testimonial.) There was little hidden from me as a kid and the fact that this book was banned made it irresistible. I snuck it out of the library months later and the reading was all the more delicious for its clandestine nature.

      To my young mind, the narrator’s voice was terrifically raw, lost, and struggling. Carla, the book’s narrator was an early introduction to unstable and slippery literary characters and would later make me want to write my own difficult people.

      Published in 1971, poor old Alice is still forbidden. The American Library Association listed the book as number 18 on its list of the 100 most frequently banned/challenged books of the last decade.