Recently I read an article http://www.princeton.edu/~paw/ by a teacher who teaches at an alternative school. She describes how she found appropriate literature for the teenagers at this school that not only fits their reading level but means something to them. The subjects in those books include neglect, abandonment, hunger, and poverty, subjects that are lived by many of these young people. The literature? Hansel and Gretel and other fairy tales, the un-Disneyed, original Grimm versions.
According to the author, "We construct a sense of self through the stories we read and tell. Without the stories, we do not know who we are or where we belong."
How is this relevant to me as a writer?
As a fiction writer, I tell stories with hopes of entertaining readers, and maybe reaching them with experiences they can relate to. Sometimes--usually when I've just watched a documentary about starving children or cyclone-ravaged Myanmar or peak oil--I wonder if that is worth that much. Now, I am not comparing my work to Hansel and Gretel or any of the classics, but maybe if I write about something that is deeply meaningful to me in my stories, just maybe a tiny bit of that could help a young person somewhere understand him/herself better. And maybe, that is a worthwhile goal.