Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Children's books and isms

Elizabeth, at Half Changed World has an interesting post about the problems with charming older books that contain elements of racism, sexism, classism and other things that we might not find so charming now. Though I commented there about issues with my own children, this was actually a problem for me growing up. I was in a feminist theory seminar a while back for which we read Huckleberry Fin. I had never read it and had, in fact, avoided such classics as these (including Catcher in the Rye, Catch-22) because the protagonists were male. I did read Pippi Longstocking, but once those ran out, I resorted to books with animals as protagonists. I was charmed by the idea of animals having lives similar to humans, with feelings and struggles akin to our own, but also they seemed more equitable to me. When I told my professor about this tendancy of mine, she was concerned for me. She was sad that I had missed out on some good literature because I was turned off by gender issues. Even now, I tend to be drawn toward books with female protagonists though I don't exclude ones with male characters as I used to. I wouldn't call my reading chick lit, but perhaps it is in some way. And is that such a bad thing? Isn't it okay that I want my imaginative life to be lead by women?