The Beauty of Different / by Michelle Cowan

A year ago, I visited Bright Sky Press here in Houston and was immediately captivated by a particular book on display: The Beauty of Different by Karen Walrond. One glance at the cover, and I knew the book would be a wonderful experience. I didn't get a copy at the time, but a month or so ago, after loudly announcing how intrigued I had been by the cover and the title, I snagged a copy of my own. 

I wasn't disappointed. I love anything slightly off the beaten path and insist on finding the beauty in things most people sneer at. Someone has to buy the misshapen pears at the supermarket. Someone has to root for the villain, right?  Some might call me a contrarian, but after reading The Beauty of Different, I'd say I'm in good company. Walrond tells the stories of eight ordinary extraordinary people, weaving her own history into the mix with words and gorgeous photography.

I'm a sucker for beautiful books, so at one glance, I knew I would enjoy this one.  I felt like going out and conducting my own interviews after reading the stories of these people—their passions, their motivations, their heartbreaks, their unapologetic authenticity, and their creativity. Their stories don't make them seem like pristine, perfect people who I could never be like. They are unique human beings who put one foot in front of the other and make things happen outside the status quo. In short, they are the kind of people I want to be.

I'll freely admit that I liked the book largely because Walrond echoes my own world views on inclusiveness, spirituality, travel, authenticity, and life in general. It feels like a book I could have written, but my version would pale in comparison, devoid as it would be of Walrond's lovely photos. The imagery and her curious approach to lofty subject matter make every topic extremely accessible to any reader. I would recommend it to anyone, not just because her perspective resonates with me, but because her photography will captivate most everyone.

The book teems with insight and lovely phrases, but it certainly isn't the best writing I've ever read. Despite that, as a whole, physical book, it beats most bestsellers on the market today. This isn't a classic novel, after all.  It's a book from the heart, full of meaning and earnest sentiment.  Most of its effectiveness comes from the careful combination of words and photos. Even if you never actually read the book, you won't regret the moments you spend luxuriating in Walrond's stunning images and colors. The book is a complete, satisfying package.   

I feel like I found a friend in Karen Walrond, like I want to meet her friends and encourage her as she continues to pursue a creative life of writing and photography—a second life for her after a decade as an attorney. I sit here, a writer and musician who has only recently chosen to leap from full-time corporate to full-time creative, and from this place, I'd characterize my reaction to the book as jealousy.  Yes, definitely jealousy.  I wouldn't take anything Walrond has away from her, but I certainly would like a taste of it. Things to come… methinks. 

As all good books should, The Beauty of Different makes me want to live life a little differently, visit new places, meet new people, and create new art. It's inspiring.  If you need some color in your life right now, pick up a copy. You can find it at Bright Sky Press and at Amazon. And don't miss Walrond's treasure of a website, How can you not fall in love with a name like that?