Reading novels to grow empathy
Being a pharmacist requires a strong sense of compassion and empathy. Our pharmacist workforce continues to diversify in gender identity, neurodivergence, and chronic disabilities. This diversity enriches the profession and makes us stronger. Similar to the workforce, our patients are just as diverse.
In order to empathize with a co-worker and help a patient, we must understand them and the difficulties they face. One way to get there is by reading novels from the reading guide I have curated that touches on topics we as health care workers should know more about.
Gender identity and sexuality
Felix Ever After, by Kacen Callender. This young adult novel is incredibly lighthearted and follows the journey of early love through the lens of gender identity and undefined sexuality. It provides a great introduction to different gender designations, sexual orientations, and the accompanying struggles faced by the individuals when they share their identities and preferences.
The Ghosts We Keep, by Mason Deaver. This young adult novel is definitely on the heavier side, as it follows Liam’s journey as they grieve the sudden loss of their brother. Liam is non-binary, and the author did a phenomenal job in describing what that means. This book introduces pronouns and highlights the significance of using them properly.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Act Your Age, Eve Brown, by Talia Hibbert. This romcom delves into the story of one individual with ASD assisting another to recognize that she may have it as well, and what that knowledge means for her and for them.
The Kiss Quotient trilogy, by Helen Hoang. These three romance stories delve into ASD, including the severity and different limitations imposed by it on different people. The author herself has ASD, which brings a very unique perspective. She shows the reader that with the right approach, social interactions can become less angst inducing for the subjects.
Get A Life, Chloe Brown, by Talia Hibbert. This romcom might be a bit of a slower one, but it does a phenomenal job with actually representing what chronic pain feels like and how that pain can shape someone’s entire life.
The Matzah Ball, by Jean Meltzer. This Hanukkah romance story is one of my favorites. The author has lived with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)—also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis—for most of her adult life and she does such a beautiful job of integrating that into her novel. This hits really close to home for me, because many COVID-19 long-haulers have been diagnosed with CFS or have the same symptoms with a chance of recovery, therefore, they live with the symptoms without the designation. Having been in the latter group, I know how important representation is because many CFS sufferers may seem able-bodied despite their severe limitations.
Caution before you read
Before you grab a copy of these books, be sure to read any trigger warnings or precautions that may be upsetting. Some deal with grief, others have very steamy romantic scenes, so be sure to read up on them before you dive in.
Salam Kabbani, PharmD, is a pharmacist in Eureka, CA. Outside of work, she loves reading and posting reviews on her Bookstagram page @theunabridgedlifeofsalamacita. She enjoys traveling to new cities, being outdoors in any capacity, Topgolf, and spending time with her friends and family, which of course includes her cat, Luna.