Thursday, April 03, 2014

Girls in Books

My productivity hit a wall yesterday. I got through the rest of the edits, but then couldn't switch mental gears to work on the other book and wasn't quite up to the focus I'd need to go back to really rewriting this book. So I came up with lesson plans for choir and did some online reading. Today, I'll take the laptop to the sofa, open the blinds to look at the rain (it's going to be a stormy day) and dig into revisions. I'll just have to find a place to move the knitting. The down side of knitting something big like a bedspread is that when it's close to being done, it takes up the whole sofa.

I had a first last night in choir: one of the kids fell asleep on me. A few of the kids were fake sleeping (they claimed that one song was boring, so they laid down on the floor and started snoring loudly), but that didn't last long because fake sleeping means being still. One kid, though, remained slumped against the wall, his mouth hanging slightly open, and he didn't stir during the rest of the session. We left him alone because yay, stillness and quiet, but also if he conked out like that, he was likely very tired and needed the rest.

I've been thinking more about the girls in books issue and the current claim by what one of my friends calls the "social justice warriors" brigade that females aren't represented in books, with a lot of cheering for the dad who changed Bilbo into a girl when reading The Hobbit to his daughter. And, you know, even though I was a kid of the 70s before political correctness was even a thing, and even though I read mostly from the library, so I wasn't necessarily reading the latest things, I never felt any absence of girls in the books I read.

I was reminded not too long ago by some of my kindergarten girls about the Ramona books and the Amelia Bedelia books. There was Harriet the Spy and the Judy Blume heroines. But I suppose they don't count because they're "real world" and not adventure or fantasy. So for adventures, there's Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Cherry Ames and the other girl detectives (Cherry Ames even served in World War II). I have a fat book of "Adventure Stories for Girls" that were all about women flying airplanes, exploring the jungle, etc. For fantasy, most of the books I read when I was on my kick of reading every book with "witch" or "magic" in the title had female main characters or had both male and female protagonists.

If you're going to thinly slice things, what about fantasy quest stories? Well, there's Dorothy in the Oz books, later joined by Ozma in the same series. That whole series was female-driven. Lucy was the primary protagonist in the early Narnia books, and later Jill took on the key role in a Narnia quest story. This may be self-selection bias, but almost every book that stuck in my memory from childhood other than The Hobbit had a major female character.

So I suppose that if you're talking about fantasy quest stories involving hobbits and elves, then maybe you'll have to gender switch a character so your daughter will have someone to identify with. Otherwise, maybe you need to broaden your reading horizons.

I do think females are less well-represented in epic-style fantasy written for teens and adults, but that could also be selection bias because I discovered epic-style fantasy in my early teens, at the age when I was a lot less concerned about having girls in my books than I was about finding a good book boyfriend in every book. Unless there was a hot guy questing with her, I'd have had zero interest in a girl's quest and so either wouldn't have bothered with such a book or wouldn't have loved it enough for it to stick in my memory.

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