Posted by: Habladora | July 26, 2008

Hello… Will You Do Me a Favor?

Dear Feminocracy Readers,

I realize I haven’t properly introduced myself – I was simply too excited at the prospect of joining the incredible Feminocracy team to slow down and write a proper ‘Hello, my name is Habladora‘ post. I apologize for the incredible lack of social grace.

My usual blogging gig is writing for The Feminist Underground, where I’m part of a blogging-team of women with very diverse interests and perspectives on feminism. I’ve also blogged a bit for Feministe (which was a blast!). I’m one of the few citizens of the United States who can claim a true passion for bread pudding, and my left ear is pointed like an elf’s.

Now for the favor-asking part of this ‘hello’ post – that’s how introductions usually work, right? Step 1: Say your name. Step 2: Tell a bit about yourself. Step 3: Ask for a favor. So, here goes:

I’m in the process of writing a children’s novel. Of course, I want a strong female protagonist with whom the kids will want to identify, but… the story is based on legends from the 8th century – not the most liberated time for women in most parts of the world. Naturally, I’m fictionalizing the world a bit to get around the ‘she couldn’t have done that!’ moments – but I’m feeling conflicted about how to balance creating a world that feels real, and creating a character with whom modern children can easily identify. Oh, and the story spans three continents, so she’s going to have to be kick-ass in several different cultures. I need advice – do I point out the challenges that faced women at the time? I don’t want the character to be cool ‘even though’ she’s a girl – I just want her to be an interesting character who is female. Dose anyone have any recommendations of children’s books that do this well? Anyone care to recommend some favorite childhood characters from books or films? Can anyone recommend some children’s fiction that did a good job of presenting diverse cultures to readers without falling into the trap of reveling in the ‘exotic’?

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Responses

  1. That sounds really interesting and promising. I wish I could help, but I was in no way exposed to strong female protagonists or books based on diverse cultures. The first time I read a book with a character that looked like me (black and female) I was around 8 or nine years old. As for a kids book that deals with a different culture, I vaguely recall Masai and I by Virginia Kroll.

  2. One way around this is to completely fictionalize the setting. Actually, accurately portraying the sexism of the time would provide a challenge for your characters, and provide a lesson for the reader.

  3. That’s really discouraging! I will check out Masai and I, though. I’ve written about a couple of female characters I loved who helped me embrace my nerdiness as a child – but they were all white, middle/upper-class, and mostly from the States. There have to be a couple that break that mold in one way or another… right?

  4. Oh I’m sure there are, but the stories likely aren’t on the booklists of schools and they may be under the radar.

  5. Actually, there was a book my brother gave me when I was in Elementary school called Dealing With Dragons. I enjoyed the book, and I think it might be a good book to draw inspirations from.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dealing_with_Dragons

  6. I loved Nancy Drew growing up. She was out solving mysteries in her spare time.

    Is she not targeted at a young enough audience?

  7. JH- Dealing with Dragons looks great. As an embarrassing aside, as I started reading the plot summary, I assumed Kazul the dragon to be male until she was specifically identified as female. Sigh.

  8. Oh, and Zak – N.J. is a great suggestion. I’m aiming my own novel for kids around 9-13 years old.

  9. Yeah, it doesn’t help that in the book, to dragons a ‘king’ was a title held by either male or female dragons in power, helping confusion along.

  10. You could try “Katherine, called Birdy”, about a young princess who does not wish to be property, or “The Midwife’s Apprentice”. They are both wonderful books and the ladies therein have clear and real voices, although both are set a bit later than yours is. I hope it helps.


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