14 April 2015

#tothegirls and Reading

Today I was positively gobsmacked by all of the #tothegirls messages on Twitter.





As I read through the messages this morning, I wanted to cry.  I went through a long, bad phase where I was thoroughly unhappy with just about everything in my life, but I've recently started coming out of it, returning to who I was when I was my strongest and happiest (only now with the benefit of wisdom and perspective and experiences!).  Oddly enough, that was during high school.  I realized that many of the #tothegirls tweets were messages I had internalized long ago.  I was blessed as a child to live in a world populated by adults who encouraged me in every I wanted to do.  I was never discouraged from wanting or trying or doing anything just because I was a girl.  This is continued today.  Not everyone is so lucky.

Another aspect in which I was very lucky as a child was that my parents and grandparents and uncle all supported my desire to read by buying me books and buying me gift cards to book stores.  I know I was denied toys I wanted, but I was never denied books.  Even books that were quite possibly too old for me, but that's a different story.

The two came together.  I started thinking about all of the female characters I met during those formative years who showed me strength and helped--along with the strong women in my life--inspire me to think I could do anything.  I could probably go on and on, but I'll stop with three strong female characters that touched me during my formative years.

Matilda Wormwood and Miss Honey.  This may be cheating a little bit because I saw the movie first when I was eight.  But Matilda made me unafraid to be smart.  She read books and I thought that that was pretty cool, so I wanted to read books.  I began to believe in the power of books.

“So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.” ― Roald Dahl, Matilda

Like Matilda, my parents didn't really monitor what I read, though mine were in no way uncaring and unsupportive like hers.  I had wonderful teachers like Miss Honey who were patient and encouraging and engaging.

Scarlett O'Hara.  I first encountered Scarlett when I was thirteen.  No list of mine dealing with reading experiences during teenage years could take place without her.  As a teenager, I saw only her transformation from a spoiled girl into a woman who did what she needed to do to help her family survive.  She didn't grow up having chores.  The book plainly says she was horrible in school.  Yet she took over the planting on the plantation.  She helped form the lumber business and helped the store prosper.  She made business contacts.  She suffered socially for doing what she wanted.  But I couldn't help admiring her ability to adapt to the new circumstances in which she found herself.  She also went after what she wanted.  She shouldn't always have gone after what she wanted (you know, like, other gals' boyfriends) but I admired her determination.

Novalee Nation.  I first encountered Where the Heart Is my freshman year of high school.  I cannot recall how many times I've reread this novel.  I love that it takes place in Oklahoma.  And I love the resilience of Novalee.  She was in a bad situation--dumped pregnant at a WalMart in a state in which she knew no one and had no one back home to call for help.  She rose above a lot.  She had a horrible childhood with an unreliable mother, no father, and bad foster parents.  No education.  And a bad string of luck with men.  She didn't let those things hold her down.  She had a day job, but also found and thrived at her true calling as a photographer.  And the message "just because he treated you like trash, doesn't mean you are trash."  Admittedly, I've done better at some times than others at drawing a line in the sand as far as my treatment from boyfriends or even just friends and acquaintances goes. But I know that deep down I've always known that their actions are more a reflection of them than they are of me.

There.  Short and sweet.  Three female characters who played a pivotal role during my formative years.

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