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Foundational YA Literature, Babysitter’s Club Outfits, Abortion, Trusting Book Characters More Than People, And “I would stick a book in my pants to go to music class”

vanessa steck
 
 
do we want to talk about…i feel like we need a slightly narrower topic than “ya lit we read”
Terry Wright
 
Heeee. The second-choice name for our blog: “BUSY WITH YOU, BABY” or “GETTING BUSY WITH TERRY AND VANESSA”
Ha yes definitely a narrower topic. Shall we choose certain books?
ONES THAT WE’VE BOTH READ *COUGH*
 
vanessa steck
 
we could talk about books that shaped our worldviews
Terry Wright
 
Okay dokay.
One thing that trips me up a bit is that when I was a child I read a lot of “adult” books because I was surrounded by adults and adult taste and
I was trying hard to be Not A Kid because my adults did not like kids around.
vanessa steck
 
well that’s depressing
Terry Wright
 
So I read less YA than I think my peers might have?
Well it was okay!!!
Well, now, rereading what I wrote, it DOES sound depressing.
I think I really wanted entree into the adult world so I read adult stuff. And I wasn’t always happy to be a kid, either, so I did not do kid-like things or have kid-like interests.
 
Well now I am feeling sad for little Terry!
But my sisters, especially the one closest to me in age, gave me a lot of age-appropriate stuff that I also loved and devoured
but maybe even loved & devoured because it was from my sister and I adored her, not just I loved & devoured the literature specifically
but then again I read all the great stuff! Lowry, Blume, Duncan 🙂
So I think a lot of my feelings FEELINGS F E E L I N G S about children’s/ya lit is tangled up in deep affection for my sister. Hmmm
vanessa steck
 
interestinggggg
Terry Wright
 
And that shaped my world view in the sense that books could come into your life from certain people at certain times and become tangled up (in the best way) in feelings of love and devotion
and a desire to recapture that sense of wonder and affection and attachment.
vanessa steck
 
can you give me some examples?
Terry Wright
 
OH FOR SURE. ALL THE JUDY BLUME. My sister gave me a boxed set of Judy Blume books when I was…somewhere between 8 and 10 and I have a fierce devotion to the books and the people in the books and Judy Blume. FIERCE DEVOTION.
Blubber, of course. And Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great. Those two for sure. And Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret.
vanessa steck
 
SHEILA
OMG
 
vanessa steck
 
THAT HOUSE
HIDE AND SEEK WITH MOUSE
AFRAID OF SWIMMING
I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO HIDE IN A LAUNDRY CHUTE
Terry Wright
 
I KNOW. SHEILA. I think she needs a thesis of her own! So smart, so difficult, trying so hard
vanessa steck
 
the yoyo!
camp!
Terry Wright
 
OMG THE YOYO
vanessa steck
 
it is strange how YA book memories are so much more visceral to me than other book memories
 
Terry Wright
 
AHHHHH that is a really important thing–the visceralness of the memories. Like, I feel like I KNEW Sheila. Or maybe WAS Sheila.
Have I mentioned that I met Judy Blume and she hugged me?
vanessa steck
 
WHAAATTTT
Terry Wright
 
Also I wrote a book report on Wifey when I was in the 6th grade and my teacher was…bemused.
vanessa steck
 
yes how just completely almost physical these memories are
Terry Wright
 
I MET JUDY BLUME AND SHE HUGGED ME.
vanessa steck
 
like sheila was a childhood friend
and her hide and seek with mouse and the SLAM BOOK are things that i actually DID
I AM SO JEALOUS RIGHT NOW
Terry Wright
 
YES. I did not have many childhood friends so I wonder if that’s why I’m particularly attached to these memories of these girls AS friends?
vanessa steck
 
could be…i ALSO did not have a lot of friends and books were, um, my friends
Terry Wright
 
I think it’s part that I feel like they were my friends and part that I studied Blume’s books to see “Oh, this is how friends act. This is how it feels to have friends. This is how a ‘normal’ girl acts.”
Yes yes yes
Books/figures in books as friends. DEFINITELY.
Judy Blume came into the Borders where I worked just to autograph some copies of “Summer Sisters” and the Community Relations Manager actually took Judy by the arm and walked her over to where I was working/standing and introduced me PERSONALLY to Judy Blume and
NATURALLY
I fangirled ALL OVER HER.
vanessa steck
 
YES
studying normalcy through books
this failed for me when i tried to dress like claudia from the babysitters club
Terry Wright
 
10000% studying.
vanessa steck
 
since no actual human could pull that off ever
Terry Wright
 
Oh god taking fashion clues from YA books!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Ahhhhhh.
(What does it say about contemporary kids who read dystopia/fantasy? They are not studying normalcy, are they? Is it a desire to be extraordinary? Hmmm. Maybe it’s a good thing–they don’t WANT to be normal. Hmm.)
vanessa steck
 
let me find an example of claudia’s dress
Terry Wright
 
PLEASE DO.
vanessa steck
 
“Now, where was I? Oh. Right. My autumn fashion colors. I’d put on a pair of baggy pants, not blue, not black, but yellow. With these I was wearing my red Doc Martens, laced with orange and yellow laces, and this great, funky, enormous shirt that I found in a vintage clothes shop. It has a leaf pattern on it. The leaves are in a Hawaiian print design, and the colors are fabulous. Underneath I was wearing my red and yellow tie-dyed long underwear shirt. To complete the ensemble, I had on earrings that I’d made myself, shaped like pumpkins, and a fringed yellow-and-white scarf tied around my hair.
 
Terry Wright
 
WHAT IS EVEN THAT OUTFIT
vanessa steck
 
I DONT KNOW.
“”Anyway, I wore the coolest tuxedo I’d recently bought in a thrift shop, including a silky, piped shirt and a bright red velvet cummerbund. I removed the shoulder pads from the jacket, which made it really slouchy (I love that look). Then I bought a pair of white socks with silver glitter. I decided to wear a pair of red sneakers to match the cummerbund. I swept my hair up and fastened it with a rhinestone barrette in the shape of a musical note.”
Terry Wright
 
Okay that does sound like the 1980s, though!!!
vanessa steck
 
my outfits did not work like claudia’s
so anyway.
“On Claudia, with the long black hair, dark eyes, and creamy skin, every look is a great one. [Preach it, girl.] Today she was wearing pink jellies, white ankle socks with pink hearts around the edges, and majorly baggy white overalls, cut off just below the knee, over a tie-dyed pink, green, and yellow T-shirt with the sleeves rolled up. She had a ring on every finger and one on each thumb, including a heart-shaped mood ring, a ring with a little bell on it, a ring that looked like a cat winding around her finger [see also: silver leopard], a baby ring with her birthstone in it, and a ring she’d made herself out of clay and beads. Her hair was pulled back into three braids, which were tied together at the bottom with a pink and green ribbon. She had on her peace symbol earrings, too, and a button that said ‘Jerry Garcia Lives’ in black script against a tie-dyed background that matched her T-shirt. She’d made the button herself in art class.”
ok i will stop now
Terry Wright
 
I totally have that webpage bookmarked now and must check it out.
But it feels like from a whole different era. WHICH IT IS. Ha.
PINK JELLIES
I never had jellies. EVERYONE ELSE had jellies.
vanessa steck
 
i had jellies! and light up sandals
pink ones
Terry Wright
 
Ugh this is bringing back really bad sense memories of high school.
I might actually cry a little.
vanessa steck
 
NO CRYING IN BASEBALL
LETS MOVE ON SWIFTLY
ok so we both read kid lit to study normalcy
Terry Wright
 
I had the worst clothes AND I wanted so desperately to dress like the popular kids and my parents wouldn’t pay for that stupid stuff (ha) and so I wore terrible knockoffs and now I feel so sad thinking of seeing me trying to hard to copy their purses and shoes
vanessa steck
 
oooo i just want to hug you
Terry Wright
 
OKAY YES. So, normalcy. So JUDY BLUME FOREVER. Paula Danziger for probably just the same reason, I think? Maybe more shy/not as cool kids, but still normal.
HUG ME
Man, I want to go back in time and MENTOR ME.
vanessa steck
 
OH YES PAULA
Terry Wright
 
And hug me.
vanessa steck
 
oh yeah i want to do that with me too
this place has no atmosphere! totally my favorite
Terry Wright
 
I can think of a handful of other books that I go through my sister that are the same–very realistic, totally contemporary, from a girl’s POV (a teenage girl, so, older than me), and “normal.” You Would if you Loved Me; Summer of my (the?) Sky Blue Bikini.
Some other book I cannot for the life of me find about a drug addict girl. NOT “Go Ask Alice” tho I read that too. Grr.
The Cat Ate My Jumpsuit! SO GOOD.
vanessa steck
 
god go ask alice was awful
so what else did you read that reflected reality?
Terry Wright
 
I think those were the ones. I remember those very clearly as “normal”. There is also L’Engle, of COURSE. MEG MURRY FOREVER. And Lois Duncan’s books. Man, I loved those.
vanessa steck
 
LOIS DUNCAN
i interviewed her for my senior study
WAIT WE NEED TO SLOW DOWN
Terry Wright
 
Still normal kids, though, right? Maybe a story about, like, astral projection, but really also about a girl navigating relationships and not feeling listened to.
 
WAIT. WHAT. YOU TALKED TO LOIS DUNCAN.
vanessa steck
 
via email only
but yes
Terry Wright
 
UM. THAT IS THE MOST AMAZING THING EVER. E V E R.
vanessa steck
 [here is the interview with Duncan]
Thank you for doing this!
My thesis is about what adolescent girls find in so-called problem novels (which, for my purposes, is basically any YA novel that discusses any of the four themes I’m using–sex/love, abuse, death and mental illness–that I feel like including) and I am using I Know What You Did Last Summer in the death category. So what I’d really like to know is this: what made you want to write about the consequences of accidentally causing a death?
I didn’t deliberately set out to insert a “message” into that book or into any other of my books. My motive for writing YA novels was to make them interesting and entertaining enough to cause kids to start to regard reading as just as exciting and interesting as watching television. But, as the mother of five children, several of whom at that time were risk-taking and rebellious teenagers, I felt very strongly that young people needed to think carefully about their moral duty to take responsibility for the results of their actions. So that message crept into my books without my consciously inserting it. (You’ll find the same moral in KILLING MR. GRIFFIN.)
I know that your daughter had not been killed when Summer was written; do you feel like your way of writing about death changed after hers?
After Kait’s murder, I no longer was able to force myself to create a fictional novel about a young person in jeopardy. How could I, when our own child’s real unsolved murder was all I could focus on? Prior to Kait’s death, I had signed a 3-bk contract for YA suspense novels. I already had written two of them–THE TWISTED WINDOW and DON’T LOOK BEHIND YOU. So I owed my publishers one more. They were kind enough not to hold me to the time schedule that I’d agreed to. It took me seven years before I could write GALLOWS HILL. In the meantime, I was continuing to write–non-fiction, poetry, text for children’s picture books, etc. I was distancing myself from my personal pain. But I still had the responsibility to fulfill the requirements of that contract, and I did.
 When you think about adolescent girls who might be reading Summer, how do you think they’ll react? How do you hope they’ll react? 
The same as I had when I wrote the book — that reading is at least as entertaining as watching TV and that it’s important to take responsibilities for one’s own actions. No matter how many years have passed since that book was written, the messages remain the same. (And I hope those kids won’t watch the horrible movie, in which the script writer inserted an insane fisherman, who wasn’t in my book, and had him decapitate my characters. I had no idea they were turning my story into a slasher film until I bought a ticket and went to the movie. I was so horrified I couldn’t open my popcorn.)
i also interviewed chris crutcher and emily danforth. the internet is wonderful.
Terry Wright
 
Wow, that is FASCINATING what she said about not being able to write about a young person in jeopardy after her daughter’s death.
vanessa steck
 
i know
Terry Wright
 
YOU ARE AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I’m so impressed by you. I am not cool enough/brave enough to be your friend!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
vanessa steck
 
DUDE
YOU ARE AMAZING
so lois duncan
fascinating writer
gallows hill is one of my favorite
favorites
Terry Wright
 
So did you use the “original” book of I Know What You Did Last Summer? Because I think we’ve discussed BRIEFLY before that they’ve changed A LOT of the book, and not just “oh we have to account for cell phones” but even weakening the writing itself and making the girls more of sexual objects? Or am I imagining that?
I haven’t read Gallows Hill!
vanessa steck
 
it’s all salem witch trials, i LOVE THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS
Terry Wright
 
See, I have really narrow experiences with these authors. Hmmm.
OH MAN WITCHES IN GENERAL
vanessa steck
 
once i went to the library of congress to read the original trial transcripts
BECAUSE I AM A DORK
um i believe i used the new version
Terry Wright
 
BECAUSE YOU ARE AWESOME, I think you meant to say.
vanessa steck
 
but i had read the old version earlier
Terry Wright
 
I wrote a paper about House of the Seven Gables about all the coded guilt over what Hawthorne’s family had done to “witches”.
vanessa steck
 
nice
GOD DO WE HAVE A TOPIC
ok
lois duncan
supernatural
she’s like the early version of the fantasy shit that is kicking around npw
Terry Wright
 
What we read and why. How our worldviews (and maybe specifically our understanding of “girlhood”) were shaped by the books we read.
vanessa steck
 
but with more suspense and less bullshit
oh i have a VERY SPECIFIC EXAMPLE
Terry Wright
 
OH YEAH. I LOVE ME SOME LOIS DUNCAN. Stranger With My Face!?!?
vanessa steck
 
my understanding of abortion was LITERALLY SHAPED by “staying fat for sarah byrnes”
and to some extent my understanding of, um, god
Terry Wright
 
I still love Ransom
OH wow. I never thought about any of that! Huh. I’m trying to think now how I came to understand all that stuff?!?!?
vanessa steck
 
god and abortion?
well, in sarah byrnes, the main character is taking a class called Contempary American Thought, or CAT, with the awesome swim coach/teacher, Ms Lemry
Terry Wright
 
Yes, god and abortion! I think religion and god was just a total blank, a total non-issue for me, totally.
vanessa steck
 
and Sarah Byrnes, who has a really badly burned face (because it turns out her dad held her face to a stove when she was three but no one knows that yet) is in the class as is a right wing christian kid
and they have this whole debate
hang on I AM GETING MY BOOK
Terry Wright
 
Somehow I just grew up being “Psssh, obviously, pro choice, duh.” but I have NO idea how that came about. I never NEH VER talked about that stuff with anyone in my family. Maybe Judy Blume’s (AGAIN) Forever?
Okay so I have to read that book, obviously.
whoops sorry got distracted for a minute.
vanessa steck
 
OK SO
the asshole christian is named mark
and they are talking about abortion
Terry Wright
 
Holy moly it sounds overwhelming. Now I wonder if that’s one of those books that parents scream about being “too dark”/shouldn’t be in the library/shouldn’t be in the classroom.
vanessa steck
 
and sarah byrnes–you have to call her by her full name because she doesn’t want to wait for you to make the connection–tells mark to look at her and keep looking at her
and she says “are you telling me that if you knew you were married to someone who would do this to your baby you should have the baby anyway?”
and he says “that’s what i’m saying”
and she pushes it and he’s all “it’s not something i’d choose.” and she goes “it’s not something i’d choose either”
anyway
that’s a pretty firm foundation for me 😉
Terry Wright
 
So how old were you when you read it?
vanessa steck
 
hmm.
i don’t know…i have read it SO MANY TIMES. i am guessing somewhere between 11-14 the first time
huge window i know’
Terry Wright
 
Ha. And did it CHANGE how you thought about things, or, RAISE things you had never thought about?
vanessa steck
 
also a lot of foundational feelings about death come from patricia mclachlan’s “baby”
oh it changed it
i was all “NO KILLING BABIES” before then…i think. i mean i had no idea wtf i was talking about
but crutched showed me the complexity
Terry Wright
 
And were you raised in a particular religion?
vanessa steck
 
not really. we went to methodist? church i think–with the clintons,a ctually–but then i started having panic attacks in church sooo
my parents are liberal
Terry Wright
 
Did you discuss these topics with peers or family?
Or was it a private internal transformational thing?
vanessa steck
 
i don’t think so…not much. mostly i discussed it with sarah byrnes. we were LIKE THIS.
Terry Wright
 
Oh my god, what you just wrote is just beautiful!
vanessa steck
 
YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL
Terry Wright
 
*pssshhh noooo*
Oh how’d I do that?
vanessa steck
 
YUP
anyway sarah byrnes is one of the clearest examples i have for me
Terry Wright
 
Right. As a kind of guide to…becoming yourself.
vanessa steck
 
yesss
and to opening up the world in a way that made it…make sense. or forced me to reconsider things because i trusted the book characters
probably more than people. i was the kid who read at recess. at least once i was so absorbed that i missed the bell
Terry Wright
 
“I trusted the book characters probably more than people” YES.
vanessa steck
 
OUR NEW MOTTO
Terry Wright
 
Oh I am the kid who read walking home from school.
vanessa steck
 
i have a lot of caps
oh yes
i still read while walking
Terry Wright
 
CAPS ARE IMPORTANT IN EXPRESSING OUR FEELINGS
vanessa steck
 
and i can’t eat without reading
or watching tv
Terry Wright
 
OH MY GOSH YES EATING AND READING.
vanessa steck
 
but yeah eating and reading
if there isn’t anything i read i get VERY ANXIOUS
Terry Wright
 
I would read the freaking cereal box when I was little and without something to read. I HAD TO READ WHILE EATING.
YES ANXIOUS YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSs
vanessa steck
 
i used to have to carry a book with me literally everywhere
now i just mostly do
Terry Wright
 
I’m still that way, actually
vanessa steck
 
i would stick a book in my pants to go to music class
oh yeah i read the honey nut cheerios box the other day
Terry Wright
 
One of the things I loved about Boston was it was NORMAL to read on the train or wherever. You were SUPPOSED to always have a bag big enough for a book and always have a book with you.
“I would stick a book in my pants” that made me snort laugh
vanessa steck
 
i think i thought i was being subtle
Terry Wright
 
“I would stick a book in my pants to go to music class”
that has a great rhythm/rhyme in it. I might have to put it in a poem.
vanessa steck
 
you should
Terry Wright
 
Hokay I will.
Wow I think we have a lot of…things tangled in books/reading. Learning from books, from the people in the books. Trusting the books, the people in the books, and I think in some cases by extension the authors, more than “real” people in our “real” lives.
vanessa steck
 
yup
Terry Wright
 
And as guides to becoming more ourSELVES.
vanessa steck
 
in large part because i think at least for me they FELT more real
 
Terry Wright
 
Even if sometimes it was studying how to be “like other people”.
 
 
Oh well disassociating.
That is still part of the attraction of reading, tho…
vanessa steck
 
for sure
vanishing happily
Terry Wright
 
GOD YES.
vanessa steck
 
reading hangovers
i find that i still am more easily absorbed by YA than by grown up books
Terry Wright
 
Yes. Wow I am really craving a book to vanish into right now! And, um, time. And solitude.
That is interesting. I think I would be absorbed by rereading my favorite YA books rather than engaging with new ones? But that might be because I feel very far away from contemporary teen life in general.
vanessa steck
 
yeah i always wish that i could read certain ya books, especially, for the first time
but have them still be perfectly like home
at the same time
Terry Wright
 
OH MAN. Is that not the biggest dream? Forgetting everything about a book so you can read it for the first time.
(Tho I did read The Hunger Games in like one day.)
vanessa steck
 
sounds about right
Terry Wright
 
(But I didn’t think it was very good writing. I just wanted to be In the Know. Ha. BEFORE the movies OF COURSE)
vanessa steck
 
yeah the writing is…not great
Terry Wright
 
Actually the first book of the Hunger Games was used in a college (remedial writing) class for several years and the students hated it.
vanessa steck
 
the STORY is good
i think
Terry Wright
 
YES, I liked the story, and I liked Katniss as a reluctant heroine. But I thought very weak writing.
vanessa steck
 
and i like the idea–i read once that harry potter and the hunger games are both about what happens when kids become symbols for larger movements
Terry Wright
 
They could not understand “dystopian” at all. Like…just really didn’t get what it meant. It was…frustrating. That’s a whole other topic!
vanessa steck
 
which i think is an interesting perspective
Terry Wright
 
Hmmmm. Tho Harry Potter had a destiny/fate? And he had an enemy from birth? Katniss just…stepped up at a crucial moment but spent the rest of the time hating every minute of everything.
vanessa steck
 
did you read the trilogy?
Terry Wright
 
The Hunger Games? Yah. I really liked the third book, actually.
(the second book felt like “Oh, uh, I will just…redo everything. Only…bigger!” And I felt it totally just made up new rules and that was annoying. Oh well.)
vanessa steck
 
yeah
but also, i think she becomes this symbol–the mockingjay–for a larger movement
Terry Wright
 
I think the political/philosophical stuff in the third book is great.
Yes for sure. But she did not WANT to. It was definitely thrust upon her.
Harry I think engages more directly. I mean, he WANTS to be at Hogwarts. Katniss wants to stay home and get food for her family and just be left alone.
vanessa steck
 
thats true
although you could argue that harry is thrust into battle in some ways
he doesn’t choose to be chosen/destined/fated
Terry Wright
 
Right for sure!
I agree they have more similarities that not. But I think he accepts his burden more…graciously? He comes to understand his importance to others even if he wants to just live his own life. Katniss I think always resists that.
And in a way he accepts a leadership role, where Katniss fights against the very people who want to make her a symbol even if its “for good”.
vanessa steck
 
i agree
Terry Wright
 
Wow do I have feelings.
Ha
vanessa steck
 
ME TOO
Terry Wright
 
Well YOU are very interesting and I think for sure one of our future conversations will have to be about you coming to the writing of a YA book when you were so powerfully shaped, yourself, by one/them.
 
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Harriet The Spy/To Kill A Mockingbird

Today we discuss this marvelous New Yorker article.          

 

Vanessa:

      let me start out with a very academic question: have you seen either the Harriet the Spy or the To Kill A Mockingbird movies?











           

Terry:






Wait, there’s a Harriet the Spy movie?! <– that should answer your question on that one




But TKAM is like SUCH a good movie UGH it’s so good.




(

 

            Vanessa:

So I confess: I love these books and everything. And although I like the TKAM movie OK I haven’t seen it since the 8th grade and I don’t have a super clear memory of it but I have SUCH GUILTY PLEASURE for Harriet’s movie




 even though objectively it’s pretty terrible




. It stars Rosie O Donnel as O




Golly











 

            Terry:

WHAT!?!




WHAT. Did Rosie finance the movie? Because that wouldn’t surprise me











           

Vanessa:

I have no idea











 

            Terry:

a sequel called “Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars”   IMAGINE A VERY DISTRESSED FACE D:











 

Vanessa:

 

OH NO THAT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE

 

 






https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pV1YuMsPO88











 

            Terry:

I just… the contemporizing of Harriet the Spy makes me feel weird.











           

Vanessa:

i am having The Feels watching this trailer











           

Terry:

She pronounces “Golly” as “Goe-lee”?! Huh











            Vanessa:

how do you pronounce it?




i would say it like gee golly











           

Terry:

I thought “Golly” like….golly gee




Oh my god we ARE the same person











 

Vanessa:

 

we really are.




OK so. Why did you want to discuss this article, o’ my lovely doppelgänger?











            Terry:

I feel like they made it very slapsticky and I don’t think of the book as slapsticky. HOWEVER I have not read the book since…..forever. I hoped to reread it before today but did not.






 

Okay, the article.




Obviously BRILLIANT and I even liked her part about how they dress up as “foodstuff”. I have a few parts starred and one question mark. 











            Vanessa:

yeah the book is not super slapsticky and Golly is not as…gentle as she is.




what do you have starred











           

Terry:

Right?!? I think part of the appeal of the book is that it is kind of… I can’t think of the word. “real”   ugh   “gritty” ugh   I’ll come back to this thought.











            Terry:

Okay the part(s) I have starred are: “the idea that existing in the world often requires the assumption of costumes, the displaying of an inauthentic self, and even lying..The idea that survival requires impersonation, and that artifice is sometimes necessary, is especially charged for girls who are gender noncomforming”











            Vanessa:

the author of the new yorker piece uses a great phrase: “contemptuous of frailty” which i think sums up the tone.











            Terry:

This just gave me many personal feels because I have a lot of awkwardness around, well clothing and clothing shopping




(Ahhhh “contemptuous of frailty” yessssssssssssssssss)




And while that sounds shallow I mean it as both that “ugh, what girls are supposed to wear” and “what is socially acceptable” and “but I don’t feel comfortable in that” and body issues and also living in Southern California and so many things.











            Vanessa:

Oh yeah me too. I was really interested that she referenced Gilligan and her work about girls–in my senior study I looked a lot at girls losing their voice in adolescence and it seems like the article is pointing out a way in which that is true even for younger girls as they are learning to costume up.











            Terry:

But it also comes down to identity and who am I really and all that and so I literally have panic attacks when I have to shop for clothes. Like, I’m going to die panic attacks and there are many tears and “I have to go to bed now” feelings.




YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS we should include links to stuff that is relevant to our discussion because I like ASSEMBLAGE-style of presenting information











           

And I think in light of this story our discussion is VERY IMPORTANThttp://jezebel.com/young-girl-leaves-school-after-shes-chastised-for-dres-1551053672







            
Young Girl Leaves School After She’s Chastised for Dressing Like a Boy 
jezebel.comAn eight-year-old girl’s grandparents removed her from her Christian elementary school in Virginia after administrators said her hair was too short and her clothes too boyish, explaining that her overall appearance was not in keeping with the school’s “biblical standards.”















            Vanessa:

can you explain more about that clothes=identity?











            Terry:

Oh man I…I think so. Um. Or can I? Let me think.











            Vanessa:

YES i saw that. It’s amazing that 50-60 years ago women were writing books about “tomboys” and now we are kicking out girls who dress like Scout and Harriet











            Terry:

I think part of it happened when I moved from Michigan, where I was just a regular ol’ student and kid, and then I moved to California




(YES. Bitch Magazine recently had a good link to finding feminist stories for young women and girls and it was all about “the character can’t just be ‘spunky’ I’ll try to find it)




Okay, so, it was like moving to an alien planet and I was completely knocked out by how difficult the transition was and how out of place I was and how ODD I was seen as (I was ten, by the way)











           

And I think I never got over that..?











            Vanessa:

that makes sense to me. better move somewhere else (VERMONT). I have always lived in the same place–at least since the age of six months–but I feel the same way and always have.




On the first day of fourth grade I wore a pink flowered jumpsuit with lace. Everyone else wore jeans and tee shirts.











            Terry:

And so now when I shop for clothes (I mean, like, it’s not like I dress up) it’s so charged. And you know gender roles/rules and sexuality expressed via clothing and all that stuff is just all mixed in











            Vanessa:

Yes.




I think also Scout and Harriet feel like they have the right to dress as “tomboys”











            Terry:

When I watched “Singles” again (UGH ANOTHER GOOD MOOOVIE) I was so blown away by how MODEST the female characters’ clothing was.




And not in a creepy religious “WOMEN SHOULD DRESS MODESTLY” but more like “Oh, you are more than your body/skin exposure. You are a thinking, acting human being.”











            Vanessa:

Yes. As a fat/short person I have always felt like other people can just…put on clothes, and they will look fine and like their bodies belong.











            Terry:

YES. And I feel like they took the iconic Harriet image and made her into little tween star with pretty hair











            Vanessa:

Yeah I definitely feel like Harriet did not look like a tween star











            Terry:

PINK FLOWERED JUMPSUIT.











            Vanessa:

WITH LACE











            Terry:

On my first day of high school I wore a white dress with pantyhose and slingback, low-heeled pumps (the color of pantyhose). I looked like a secretary.




And doesn’t Harriet have glasses? It’s funny how much of how I think of that book is directly affected by the (original?) cover.











            Vanessa:

do we think part of the reason why Harriet/Scout are so endearing is that in part it seems that they just don’t give a shit? Like they can rock the jeans and the lack of lace. But on the other hand, in some ways both books turn on their characters caring about others. I am also curious about how watchful both girls are. The idea of girls especially having to carefully watch the world around them so that they know to behave is so underrated in pop culture but I think it happens a lot…but these girls aren’t watching to fit in.











            Terry:

YES YES YES. Holmes says that too: “The lesson that they themselves may sometimes have to hid makes them more aware that everyone has secrets, and everyone has a complex inner life…[Harriet gains a] newly discovered capacity for empathy.”




So would we argue this is a good or bad thing? As in, they learn to be watchful because to not conform is dangerous/deadly, and, every good girl needs to learn how to EMPATHIZE WITH OTHERS.











            Vanessa:

think what is interesting about these girls is that they do the same thing most girls do (i think most girls are watchful) but for a different purpose and/or with a different outcome




they aren’t doing it to fit in. Scout is watching so she can make sense of wtf is happening and see the rot in her town. Harriet is watching so she can write it all down.











            Terry:

They are not wholeheartedly embracing the act of Being A Girl; they are experimenting with a role and observing how others react to them/to others who are conventionally appropriate.











    Vanessa:

well said.




also i love how CURIOUS both girls are




they remind me a little bit–well, she reminds me of them–of Flavia de Luce, in Alan Bradley’s novels











            Terry:

Yes. Is their curiosity just part of their natural selves? Or are they curious because they have already learned they are considered odd? How aware ARE they of their own oddness, actually? Hmmm











            Vanessa:

GOOD QUESTION




with harriet at least I think maybe she wasn’t super aware of it until her notebook was found











           

Okay I do not know that reference….MUST DISCOVER




.

 

Yes, I think Harriet is more “everyone else is weird; I’m just me” and I think Scout is often TOLD “you are weird; stop it”. Well, by her community, if not her immediate family.











            Vanessa:

definitely her community tells Scout all the time that she is weird. Or a troublemaker.




that’s why she and Boo hit it off in part–weird watchers











            Terry:

OH I AM GLAD YOU BROUGHT BOO UP…




So here is the part of the article where I put a question mark:




The idea that Boo is “Scout’s ‘projected double’, a representative of her rebellion against conventional ways of living….that it’s through Boo–who lives quietly and apart from Maycomb society–that Scout ‘obtains ideas about gender subversions'”.











           

I have NEVER thought about this, actually. But I am not sure I agree











            Vanessa

It doesn’t ring true to me exactly/




First of all, HOW does Boo give Scout ideas about gender subversions?











            Terry:

Exactly. I don’t know how he subverts his gender/role/expectations. In fact, isn’t it “allowable” for a man to live alone in a house his whole life? It’s eccentric, but it’s not some kind of wholesale “subversion”. Whereas if a woman lives alone her whole life, she is considered, well, a witch!











           

A man can reject the role of family provider/father and be considered an independent (if odd) thinker/fellow, but a woman who rejects the role of homemaker/mother is seen as somehow deformed, almost literally.











            Vanessa:

Yes. I mean I assume there would be nasty homophobic rumors about Boo




But not the way there would be if a woman decides she doesn’t want children and would rather live along with her cats











            Terry:

That his family turned him into “something unnatural”






 

Right right right EXACTLY











            Vanessa:

So I think Boo is an interesting EXAMPLE to Scout of what it can be to live differently











            Terry:

Boo may model for Scout the repercussions of subverting the community’s ideas of what adult life is supposed to contain (marriage, family)











            Vanessa

LIKE GOLLY IS TO HARRIET











            Terry:

I don’t know that I would argue Boo *is* a good role model/”projected double” for Scout




Ahhhhh in the article she argues about Harrison Withers as Harriet’s “projected double” rather than Golly, right?











            Vanessa:

I don’t think I would argue that either, just that he is an example




Of someone who has rejected what she is expected to do 




and Golly in some ways it seems to be is an example for Harriet of someone living very differently











            Terry:

Yes and Boo is considered a real creep by MOST of the town for it, too, though. Hmmm











            Vanessa

But aren’t Scout/Atticus/Jem kind of considered…off by many in the town as well?











            Terry

Holmes argues that Harrison Withers is Harriet’s “projected double” and not Golly, which is interesting











            Vanessa:

Hmmmmm




well, maybe because she watches Withers rather than interacting with him the way she does Golly?











            Terry:

Probably Jem is going to be “okay” (a “good man”) because he has his dad to guide him, but Scout is not going to be okay because there is no good womanly role model to guide her (and that’s where Atticus is seen as being “off” because he is not finding A Good Wife to be a Good Mother to Scout and teach her traditional feminine ways)











            Vanessa:

Right. I think The Town assumes that Atticus can’t guide Scout.






the contrast between parents in the books is pretty interesting











            Terry:

Hmmmmmm. That idea (watching versus actually interacting) is interesting.






Yesss




. Ugh I can’t find the section I thought I highlighted about their families











            Terry:

!




Okay because I am overeager I found the part in the article about the similarities in the girls’ families: “Like Scout, Harriet has an absent–in her case, uninvolved–mother; comes from an economically privileged family”.











            In

real life, both authors were born in the South and relocated to NYC; both were daughters of “successful, widely respected attorney[s]” and Fitzhugh had a stepmother and rarely saw her mother who “suffered from mental illness”. Also, one biographer said Fitzhugh felt “utter loneliness” which…is interesting.











            Vanessa

YES thank you











            Terry

 

But also Fitzhugh may have been gay. I dunno if anyone ever said that about Lee?











            Vanessa

Is Harriet’s dad a lawyer too?




I dunno. Lee is still alive, we could ask her











            Terry

Can you imagine. Would she even answer the door??!?




(I don’t see anything about Harriet’s dad in the article…hmmm)




And I can’t even find that answer online. Hmm.











            Vanessa:

probably she’d go all Boo on us




. In the books tho–Golly is clearly Harriet’s substitute mom, yeah?




and Scout has the “help” as well but you never get the sense, that I remember, of it being as close a relationship. perhaps because she has Atticus, World




s Greatest Book Dad











            Terry

Oh yes I think Golly is her substitute mom, although Holmes says both girls “have complicated, though loving, relationships with their families’ domestic servants” which are probably even more important..?




Maybe? As in, they get some motherly affection and guidance, but, in the larger society, their “domestic servants” are invisible.











            Vanessa

Yes. Possibly truer for Scout











            Terry

So how much will the girls end up valuing their “domestic servants” when the larger society deems them invisible.











            Vanessa

It’s interesting too that both their “domestic servants” are kind of hard edged, IIRC











            Terry

Yes for sure Scout.




Well but Golly is her former nanny, so that is important. 




I mean, Harriet’s nanny




. And I think class is important too. I mean, how much eccentricity will these girls get away with because they come from “established”/wealthy families?




More than others, no?











            Vanessa:

yes but am i totally misremembering that Golly is a little hard edged? Like she is nontraditionally nurturing











            Terry:

Noooo Golly is DEFINITELY hard edged!!! Yes yes yes











            Vanessa

so, for that matter, is Atticus. both girls are being molded by people who are nontraditionally nurturing. Maybe that makes them more watchful?











            Terry

Hmmmm. What IS it that makes them so watchful? Harriet obviously embraces her role as a writer. Scout I think is just curious? Is allowed to be curious? Because Atticus answers any questions she might come up with?




The NY article I think argues they’re watchful because they are trying to figure out how to live in a world where they’re non-conformists











            Vanessa

she has room/permission?




Yes definitely they are trying to learn how to live as non conformists. 




I just think it’s interesting that their watching comes with a different purpose than many girls. Scout has this wonderful dad who gives her all this space to question things.











            Terry:

Yes yes exactly: permission. He encourages her questioning nature. As a parent and perhaps as a lawyer. I mean, he draws on his own life as a lawyer to parent her, and thus encourages her to ask questions and prod for answers









.

            Vanessa

and similarly, Harriet has Golly











            Terry

She does, but doesn’t Golly move away or something for a chunk of the book..? I feel bad I don’t remember the details better.











            Vanessa

She is there for Harriet’s formative years and then she and her bf take Harriet out and the parents get home early and I think are about to fire her when it turns out she is going to go and get married so she leaves.




She comes back to visit when harriet’s notebook is fine and harriet is Super Sad.











            Terry

I’m thinking of the line where Holmes says a biographer of Fitzhugh called Fitzhugh, or Fitzhugh’s childhood, utterly lonely (“describes the utter loneliness that Fitzhugh felt as a child”)




Right so Harriet is a little bit more left alone than Scout, no? Scout certainly has a mother figure at home and the entire neighborhood to watch over her, for better and for worse, of course. Harriet is more of an outsider to her own community, I thiiiiink











            Vanessa

I think you’re right. Well, their communities are very very different, yes?











            Terry

Absolutely yes. Well and the eras, no? 1930s Alabama and 1960s Upper East Side?











            Vanessa

yes–so of course Harriet has less of that kind of always-watching community











            Vanessa

So is that better for her or “worse”? Or, flip the question around, will Harriet end up more likely to be true to herself as an outsider? Will Scout capitulate to more traditional gestures (school dances, maybe college, if not marriage and family)











            Vanessa

i wonder too if it’s partly the ages. we see Scout really young right? like six? but Harriet as a tween, when her personality it as least a little more fixed. I would guess if one of them is going to stay true it would be her.




although what Scout witnessed was also worse. And maybe it will be this kind of formative event that is kind of always in the back of her head, even if she barely remembers it later.











            Terry

It’s interesting that in the beginning Holmes says “each book argues for authentic expressing in favor of fealty to convention” but at the end of the article she says “The lesson that they themselves may sometimes have to hide…” [makes them more empathetic to others]











            Vanessa

yeah. It seems like she was trying to get at the balance between “authentic expression” and hiding to fit in




. the tension, that’s a better word











            Terry

such a hard question to answer, I guess–to try and suppose what a character in a book will be like twenty years later. I mean, it could even be argued Scout would, later in life, feel like her childhood was this whole blur (with terrible moments), but not necessarily formative. She might be more empathetic in the future, BUT, it’s not like she becomes Boo’s friend and champion. She simply recognizes the power of empathy. Is that enough?











            Vanessa

at six, maybe? i sort of think that the whole thing with the trial is what will stick in her head–like she got a clearer example than most/many people do of, um, i want to just say evil.











            Terry:

Yes, tension. I still feel that Harriet will remain an outsider. Scout I’m not so sure about; but yes, their ages make a huge difference, as do their milieu. (Or does it? Are things [i.e. expectations/gender role expectations] soooo much better for girls these days? That’s a whole other discussion! Ha).











           

Yes, evil, for sure. 




And yes, Harriet’s “life lesson[s]” have nothing to do with race or social injustice or class differences, either, too.











           

Vanessa

maybe not soooooo much better these days…but better in the 60s than the 30s











           

yes exactly. Harriet learns about the power of her own words




Scout learns about the power of other people




s ideas











            Terry

Scout meets many people who are hiding secrets one way or another and finding a way to live IN their society while living a separate life behind closed doors (for better and for worse). What lesson will she get from that..? A good one (it’s possible to conform a little bit on the outside to just get along with people but you can have your own life [but behind closed doors]). Harriet learns that her own secret life can be used against her..? Or, that it will be okay if her secrets get out because in a way she gets rewarded for her observational skills? Hmmm











            Terry:

I meant that as a question: is Scout getting a good lesson from these people living double lives?











            Vanessa

I think Harriet learns that her words have a lot of power and that it’s important to keep them hidden if she is being totally honest. remember what Golly says–you are going to have to do two things and you don’t like either one. Apologize, and lie.











            Terry

Ahhhh yes. So, “keep it to yourself”. Is that a powerful lesson or a bad one? Hmmm











            Vanessa

Hmm. I think Scout learns that it isn’t always safe to be honest in the world.











            Terry

Well I guess it means both girls sort of learn (Harriet more explicitly than Scout, because Scout has other things going on) that there is a surface life and a “real” life and sometimes you have to sort of play along by surface rules BUT you can also have a “real” life.











            Vanessa

Hmm indeed. I don’t know! I think in some ways it’s a lesson in knowing the rules 




or, The Rules.











            Terry

Ugh, THE RULES.




Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr











            Vanessa

I know I fucking hate The Rules.




but I think that is what the girls learn.











            Terry

So is that a useful lesson in the end, though? Here are the guidelines for getting along with general society, which will be helpful to you; but you can have an authentic self… if you keep it on the DOWNLOW




And maybe at least Scout learns that it means OTHER people, who she has rejected/made fun of, may have an authentic self it is worth getting to know. For her to Be Seen by others, she will have to See others.




I really have to reread Harriet the Spy because I’m starting to feel badly for her that she’s still struggling











            Vanessa

I think Harriet is OK. She’s a journalist who does great work publicly and writes a snarky anonymous blog.











            Terry

OH EM GEE I was just thinking, after rereading about that STUPID “HARRIET THE BLOG WARS” MADE FOR TV MOVIE BLECGH that actually Harriet WOULD PROBABLY WRITE FOR THE TOAST and be very happy











           

Vanessa

MALLORY ORTBERG IS REALLY HARRIET











           

Terry

MIND BLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWN











            Vanessa

SHE THOUGHT HER SECRET WAS SAFE




. SHE WAS WRONG











            Terry

NOW WE HAVE THE POWER




. THE POWER OF KNOWING HER TRUE IDENTITY











            Vanessa

BLACKMAIL. 




LET US WRITE FOR THE TOAST OR WE WILL REVEAL YOU











    Terry:         

If I even think about sitting down to write something for the Toast my hands curl up into frozen little gnarled stumps because that is too much











           

I want Matt Lubchansky to illustrate my hands turning into little frozen gnarled stumps pathetically banging on the keyboard











            Vanessa

the toast is a beautiful thing.











           

Terry

A pure and wholly good thing.




Okay one more question about TKAM and HTS: are they good books for girls to read?











           

Vanessa

UM YES




. TKAM in particular is, I would argue, in contention for Great American Novel.




in it’s examination of race and culpability




. and Atticus Finch is one of the great heroes











            Terry:

Hmmmmmm. You have read this, no? http://the-toast.net/2013/09/09/jaya-catches-up-roll-of-thunder/







            
Jaya Catches Up: Roll of Thunder and To Kill a Mockingbird 
the-toast.netJaya catches up on the classic YA novels she never read, with “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” as the current installment.
















   

            
BUT I think it is important to point out that it’s a story on race and culpability told through the eyes of a white girl




A white rich girl




. Well, “well off”











            Vanessa

i agree




and i would teach it alongside RoT which i think is ALSO in contention











            Terry

OKAY I WILL ALLOW THAT











            Vanessa

OH THANKS. 




and Harriet is just…wonderful




. I might read that with From the Mixed Up Files




. I feel Claudia and Harriet would have a lot to say to one another











    Terry

SO, TKAM and HTS are good books for girls to read, but, TKAM needs to have some discussion about its POV etc.











           

And this makes me think of Harriet/girls today who would read Harriet: “When children cannot find themselves reflected in the books they read, or when the images they see are distorted, negative, or laughable, they learn a powerful lesson about how they are devalued in the society of which they are a part. “











           

From this article http://www.rif.org/us/literacy-resources/multicultural/mirrors-windows-and-sliding-glass-doors.htm





Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors 
www.rif.orgBooks are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created or recreated by the author. When lighting condit…














           

Vanessa

Yes. And would be best read alongside Roll of Thunder I think




, ideally.











            Terry






Who do we see about making that A Law?











            Vanessa

Obama if he can squeeze us in











           

That’s all folks! Let us know if there is something we ought to discuss.