The book that changed your life: Ashley Little

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      The Word Vancouver festival is set for its 2015 edition with a huge, genre-spanning program of authors, appearing at venues around town from September 23 to 27.

      The Straight asked a group of these writers to tell us about their most meaningful reading experiences. Which books shaped their imaginations early on? Which ones expanded their ideas of what the written word can do?

      Here’s what Vancouver’s Ashley Little told us. Recently named the Vancouver Public Library’s newest writer in residence, Little is the author of such prize-winning novels as The New Normal and Anatomy of a Girl Gang. She’ll read from her work at 4 p.m. on September 27, on the Authors’ Words stage outside the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library.

      When I was probably seven or eight, my Grandma B. read me Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, a novel based on the true story of a 12-year-old girl, Sadako Sasaki, who lived near ground zero in Hiroshima and was two years old when the bomb struck, later developing leukemia and dying at age 12. But in her last days, Sadako begins folding origami paper cranes because there is a Japanese legend that says whoever folds 1,000 cranes will be granted a wish. She never finishes folding all 1,000 in the book, but her family and friends do, and they bury her with the cranes.

      That was the first time I remember crying in a book. And as I recall, I was really crying hard. I think maybe because I knew it was based on a true story. Sadako had lived. Hiroshima had happened. This was real stuff. This was probably my first historical fiction. Sure, I loved Charlotte's Web and The Trumpet of the Swan, but those were made up, they weren’t real. Sadako was real. I think I realized the emotional power a book can have then. That was a turning point for me.