Conversations with People who Hate Me by Dylan Marron ’06. The internet came along too late for me. I use it, of course, to get information and to contact people, but when I encounter a book that is steeped in this alternate universe I begin to see the possibilities it offers. Dylan does podcasts (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a podcast) and because he takes a progressive stand, anonymous viewers say outlandish things – suggest that he kill himself or decapitate himself and suggest (strongly) that being gay is a sin. Dylan puts these comments in a Hate Folder. This book chronicles his attempts (often successful) to reach out to his detractors and to find ways to breach the great divide.
This quest is riveting, funny, scary, gutsy, surprising, and illuminating. It goes through phases where he makes important discoveries. He learns from mistakes. He rebounds from setbacks. (Also, there’s a great riff on how Meeting for Worship at FS played a part).
We all wonder how to relate to those who see the world very differently from ourselves. I hope I’m not giving too much away by saying that the answer lies in avoiding debate and instead engaging in conversation. Conversation permits Dylan and his haters (it is too strong a word, but what are you going to do – too much nuance and you won’t have any viewers) to see each other as human beings. How bad can a guy be if he has a dog named Cinnamon?
Eventually Dylan begins facilitating conversations between others. He is willing to go places most would shy away from. A woman who is sexually assaulted finds herself called a liar by a stranger on the internet. I hope you will read about how that conversation and a subsequent one turned out.
This book reveals a courageous experiment.My religion believes in the “inherent worth and dignity of every human being.”But everybody believes this in theory.By reaching out to his Hate Folder, Dylan has put into practice the hard part of this belief.