| Matt Conway
NORTHAMPTON – Whether it’s page-turning novels, sharp political commentaries or educational texts, local Florence author John Sheirer exudes endless adoration for the written word. For Sheirer, his embrace of writing extends beyond his singular perspective, with the author’s latest work, “Stumbling Through Adulthood,” showcasing an empathetic portrait of individuals wrestling with personal and social dilemmas amidst their ever-changing worldviews.
Ranging from dire straits to warm anecdotal memories, “Stumbling Through Adulthood” encompasses worldly experiences from numerous different perspectives. Sheirier’s vivid world-building and expressive language acts as a steady guiding voice, but it’s the author’s richly developed thesis that maintains the most intrigue.
“When we were kids, we thought adults knew everything. Then we became adults. Now, we’re all just trying to figure things out. We’re all connected through that,” Sheirer said in addressing the short story collection’s central theme. His anecdotal stories amass a versatile range, from a dog caretaking for their sick owner to college students undertaking a playful dare. All of these tales hold a spiritual connection to one another, with the author thoughtfully reflecting on humanity’s perseverance through life’s unique trials and tribulations.
Sheirer articulates these perspectives through his enduring sense of empathy. “One thing that's important to recognize in life is that our point of view is not the only perspective there is in the world,” Sheirer said. The author utilizes personal experiences and relevant social insights to imbue his characters with a lived-in point of view on the page.
Sheirer doesn’t always agree with his character’s ideologies, with some standing out for their rude attitudes or jaded ambivalence toward the world around them. However, developing their personas allows Sheirer and his readers to understand the conditions behind the character’s flawed behaviors. Several characters even get a chance at redemption, re-appearing throughout the book to display poignant personal growth from past wrongdoings.
Whether it’s “Stumbling Through Adulthood” or his long-running column with the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Sheirer’s work maintains a lively political pulse. “What’s happening in the world around us is so incredibly important,” Sheirer said in reference to last year’s Black Lives Matter protests and election controversy. This concept is established in the book’s first section, which follows a Black man deciding whether to help a crying young girl based on fears of racially targeted reactions. Sheirer repurposed a personal memory for this narrative, using it as a road map to reflect on the internal pressures Black Americans face in their day-to-day life.
Sheirer makes a conscious effort to embrace real-world topics, but this choice isn’t always the easiest decision. “I am always thinking about how other people will react to writing about current events…there's often a lot of anxiety in that,” Sheirer said.
Sheirer has dealt with upset friends and family members regarding his beliefs. Despite the critiques, his work never shies away from the consequential ramifications of current events. The author’s pieces at the Gazette features an observant non-fiction perspective, while his fiction incorporates political concepts in development of his character-centered storylines. Sheirer has also worked his ideas into numerous other genres, including children’s books, writing guides and poetry.
No matter what platform Sheirer embraces next, the author will continue to elicit the same rewards from his work. “Writing to connect with readers and live powerful human experiences keeps me passionate,” Sheirer said.