Thursday, July 16, 2015

Girl Books

A time of joy, that nonetheless stabs me to the heart. Tracy is reading The Golden Name Day to our granddaughter Emily. This has powerful family significance (see link, and I am even more convinced of what I wrote then and like the comments more). I am struck by three things: 1) The poverty of Regular Folk - even allowing for the 100x inflation markup of Jennie's childhood a century ago, the things that were considered party luxuries are discarded by even poor children these days without a thought. We have fabulous wealth, and we do not understand them if we do not enter in to their carefulness with pennies. 2) The assumed presence of same-sex cousins (and the invisibility of opposite-sex cousins). That day is gone and every person in the 21st C should spend a day weeping over that. Italy, Japan, China, Finland have so few children from the 70's onward that "cousin" has no meaning. We are following them mindlessly. 3) The cultural universality of the girl-story. These are the most excruciatingly white girls in KidLit, yet I cannot imagine girls of other races, in those latency years before boys darken the horizon, not entering into this 1900 Swedish-American world without complete comfort and understanding. It's girl stuff. They get it. It's the boys who shake their heads in puzzlement.

The Golden Name Day, and the follow-up The Little Silver House and The Crystal Tree should be added to your Little House/Anne of Green Gables/Secret Garden stable of girl-books. They can be hard to purchase, but still show up in libraries.


Sam L. said...

"2) The assumed presence of same-sex cousins (and the invisibility of opposite-sex cousins)." I presume from the little description of the book, that the absence of boy cousins is due to it being a girl's book, and that the boys would not be invited to a girl's party. I think I'm likely older than you, but my wife was younger, and my children have 16 cousins on her side. They have two on my side, both older, whom they have never met. I had 5 cousins, three far away; two of the cousin died years ago, and one just disappeared. Yes, fewer children in a family means fewer siblings and fewer cousins; and as siblings move away, the cousins get scattered.

Texan99 said...

My cousins were scattered all over the country, but we visited them every year. My sisters and I worked out very carefully which cousins we would go to live with if we were orphaned.

I've been proofing a lot of juvenile books from the 1910s or so, on Project Gutenberg. A few are clunky, but most are nicely written, sweet tales. The two most striking things are how independent the young adults are, and how firmly fixed they are in a moral universe. They don't often throw themselves on the adults for solutions, but when they do they get enviable instruction. Nothing Holden-Caulfield-ish or hothouse-flower about any of them.

Murph said...

I just recently discovered the "Little Britches" series, autobiographies by Ralph Moody about his youth on a ranch just to the west of Littleton, Colorado (and, later, elsewhere) in the early 1900s. I've shared them with my eldest grandson (11 yrs), who fortuitously enough lives in that same area. His home probably stands where the young Ralph used to ride his horse and herd cows. My g'son is awed by the self-sufficiency, the ambition to work & contribute to the family coffers, and the pratical knowledge and problem solving displayed by the young Ralph.

He is also impressed, and puzzled, by how much Ralph and his siblings can buy with pennies, nickels, and dimes. But that's an economics lesson for another day.... :-)

james said...

Just within our lifetimes we've seen unaffordable luxuries turn into trivialities. Do you recall when white 5W Christmas tree bulb strings were a big deal, and some wealthier neighbors actually had them in different colors?