Make Space for Your Joy: Why Fandom Matters

If you’ve seen me at the bookshop or seen my profile on the Blue Willow staff page, you know that I’m an enthusiastic supporter of kids' books and romance novels (just watch me handsell anything by Jasmine Guillory or Alexis Hall, and you’ll see the hand flails in action!). I also unashamedly adore Ted Lasso, Bridgerton, Heartstopper, Check, Please!, Percy Jackson, and The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza, as well as music by Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan, Harry Styles, and One Direction. Check out my Spotify playlists, the cover of my laptop, or the wall above my desk for confirmation.

For some reason, my enthusiasm for some of these fandoms makes people shake their heads or smile condescendingly. That’s not unusual. In her upcoming book This is Not a Book about Benedict Cumberbatch, journalist Tabitha Carvan writes about the empowering joy that can come from loving something that others consider frivolous. She’s right. I love my family and friends, and I adore my job at Blue Willow. But there’s something to be said for making room in your life for things that simply bring you joy.

As Carvan writes, it can be easy to make room for fandoms when we’re younger, but as we age, other things — work and family, among others — take up space, and understandably so. It’s easy to let these things squeeze out fandoms and interests that bring us sheer joy, but adding something else to the list of wife, mom, and bookseller (Daughter of Poseidon, One Directioner, Samwell hockey fan) reminds me to make space for myself, which can sometimes be an easy thing to forget. I encourage you to discover your own joy and to make space for it.

Although these fandoms are absolutely for me, I love to share them. My sister and I often discuss which romcoms we’ve recently read. My husband and I watched every episode of Ted Lasso. My son and I actively discuss the casting for the new Percy Jackson movie (and, FYI, are DELIGHTED by the choices being made). My colleague Ayah and I hope to see Harry Styles in concert in Austin this fall. 

I think the best experience, however, has to be the communal joy (thanks for that term, Leah Johnson!) I felt in February, when my daughter and I went to see Louis Tomlinson in concert. I listened to his music pretty steadily during the pandemic, and the sheer happiness I felt dancing and singing along to every song with 3,000 other fans unashamedly celebrating was unparalleled.

Whether you love New Kids on the Block or K-Pop, whether you watch Heartstopper or Real Housewives, whether you play D&D on a regular basis or read every book from BookTok that makes you cry: Embrace it, make space for it, and celebrate it. It will make your life better. Don’t believe me? Read journalist Maria Sherman’s recent essay in The Guardian about how pop fandom shapes our lives for the better.

If you see me walking in my neighborhood, wearing an AFC Richmond hoodie over a Camp Halfblood t-shirt with a Mac’s Book Club Show hat on my head, you’ll probably also see me either re-listening to Alexis Hall’s Boyfriend Material (Joe Jameson’s narration is spectacular), listening to the amazing Ted Lasso podcast, Richmond Til We Die, or bopping my head along to the music on my phone. There's a good chance that music is from a massive playlist that’s a combination of One Direction bops and songs from Louis, Niall, and Harry. If you want to join me for a serotonin burst, let me know — I’ll be happy to share one of my earbuds!

Authors Tabitha Carvan and Maria Sherman will appear in conversation to discuss Tabitha’s new book, This is Not a Book about Benedict Cumberbatch, Wednesday, June 1, at 7:00 PM Central time.