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August 30, 2008


I think Trudi Canavan's Black Magician books might have what you're looking for. Also I just read The Good Fairies of New York which had a female character who explored but also was responsible for herself.

I know exactly what you mean (I haven't read the Twilight books) about longing for a female character who is actually responsible for making her own decisions, whether they be right or wrong. Too many are just pushed and pulled along by their supporting cast, whether that's novels, TV, movies, or real life. It's frustrating to watch.

Julie Berry, a Boston author and mother of 4, is definitely someone to watch. She's got a fantastic young adult book coming out in March 2009, "Amaranth Enchantment." You can pre-order on Amazon. Her book is geared toward a younger audience than Stephanie Meyer. The main character is a young woman who is a delightful combination of wits, strength and determination.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my favorite novels about a young woman - the main character is girl (who turns into a woman) who is smart, directed, purposeful and she's compassionate, forgiving, and generous.

Another recommendation is Ines of My Soul by Isabel Allende. It's a historical fiction about Inez Suarez, an early conquistadora. Inez is driven, powerful, and passionate and she is incredibly generous and loyal. She also enjoys being loved (by the way, she knows she has a right to it - this was the first book that introduced me to the idea - that my very being is all that is needed to inspire love).

Carol Gilligan (of In a Different Voice fame) has researched and discussed this distinctly female quandry/puzzle for decades. We want connection and individualism - at the same time - and it is in the process of learning to be both that are life's "meanings" are formed. (I think we each have multiple meanings!)

You should try any of the books by Shannon Hale. Her heroines learn much more and are strong women. They are very light reading as they are teen literature, but enjoyable none the less.

I agreed with your initial criticism of Stephenie Meyer's books. I don't need to read them to know that there are teenage girls who would be attracted to a boy who claimed to like vampires and who thinks of himself as a suave, heroic character. But my daughter could tell you horror stories about her (now ex-)husband and his need to wear vampire teeth during sex so as to bite her and drink her blood. What seemed masterful and protective when they were dating turned to manipulation and control when they were married. And wouldn't we all be concerned if our daughter fell for a boy who preferred dragons and vampires and fantasy characters to real relationships and family activites? I understand that the books are fantasy and I've heard enough from Stephenie's interviews to know her motives are good, but I still think there are too many young people who don't distinguish well between fantasy and real life and who make poor choices as a result. Romanticizing vampires still seems to me like a topic for Mature Audiences.

"Sarah Palin was appointed the Republican VP nominee yesterday."

I read today that some Christians are ticked that by running for office she will be abandoning her children. They felt that her first responsibility was to be a mother.

Overall she looks impressive.

Ditto on Shannon Hale, another Mormon author. She is a MUCH better writer with far better underlying values. (Girls should be strong and good, not merely "nice".) In contrast, I will NOT let my daughter read the Twilight books, because their message is insidious for young girls--it's worth throwing over everything, including one's identity (and attendant moral outlook), for the "right" strong man (or vampire). I live in Cambridge and am the only Mormon most long-time Cantabrigians have ever known. (That can be a good or bad thing, depending on whether or not they like me!) My neighbor said she was going to buy the Twilight books, because the author is a Mormon, hence the books must have "good" values. I very quickly disabused her of that notion!

I enjoy Meyer's books because they are devoid of moralizing. What a refreshing approach from a Mormon woman! She's writing interesting stories full of questions, rather than answers - always the mark of a good writer. Plus, I dig that she totally gets into her process. She's a wonderful example of loving your art.

I think Stephenie Meyer is a model Dare to Dream Girl. She literally started her writing journey by dreaming! Some of us may not agree with some details of her work, but at least she's out there doing the work - and doing it quite well.

I'd like to go out on a limb on this next comment: I believe that Stephenie Meyer has been gifted her talent to teach Mormon women that when we dream - and then are true to that dream - amazing things can happen. While not her intent, Stephenie Meyer has single-handedly redefined how millions of people view Mormon women. This is a welcome change, given that in most Hollywood movie scripts, writers still make quips about present-day Mormon women as docile, pinafore-wearing, polygamist wives. Not only has Meyer written some fantastically entertaining books, but she has illuminated the truth about Mormon women - both to the public and to Mormon women themselves - that we are complex, talented, multi-faceted people.

I loved that the story of the Twilight series was so well-written. What an author! But I did have a hard time with the continual specter of premarital sex avoidance, especially in the 3rd book. I didn't feel that it needed to be there to that extent.
You make some really good points about Bella's choices, or lack thereof, and I wonder if Meyer realized that she was writing it that way. Maybe Bella didn't consider college because she was so focused on her other goal (eternal life with Edward) that education was secondary to her. Maybe she was avoiding a particularly thorny choice. The book's a story written from Bella's point of view--perhaps she doesn't feel that scholarly ruminations are incident to this story. Or perhaps she avoided it so well that we never see her considering education. Maybe she just really, really wants a simple life of being with those she loves, however unrealistic that seems to those who've grown up (including Edward).

Despite the fantastic storytelling, I suspect that the appeal of these books is exactly that everyone wants to be loved because they exist, and it's nice to have a book remind you of that in those exact words. We internalize that which we desperately want. I need to be loved, and so does every other person on the planet.

(They had a Breaking Dawn "event" at our local library, and I was interested that there were a number of teenaged boys there--I have to think about that)

What about the Robin McKinley books? There was that whole rash of 1980's feminist reclaimings of fairy tales, and most of Robin M's were exquisite, even if now they feel a tinge (only a tinge) dated.

I just finished Breaking Dawn. I wholeheartedly agree with your opinions about it on your blog...thanks for your astute observations!

I also have the love/hate thing going on--although I enjoy reading the story, I can't say that I love the books because I can't stand that Bella throws everything else in her life away for her relationship with Edward--it reminds me of Disney's version of the Little Mermaid in which Ariel leaves her world to become human so she can marry her Prince. UGH!

Yes, these stories are SO romantic, but the reality is that we as women can (and should) be our own person (whatever that entails for us) AND find true love--they should not be mutually exclusive...Perhaps Stephenie Meyer might write that into the story somehow as part of Bella's (or maybe even Renesmee's) character development...In fact, it seems that she may have touched on this topic a little when in this latest novel, she had Bella make a comment which contrasted her mediocrity as a human with her potential for excellence, in her eyes, as a vampire--Maybe as the story progresses we will find that Bella has a chance to correct these little nagging details that bug us...she is only 18 after all...I will continue to read the Twilight books as they come out (even if it is with gritted teeth) because I can't resist them!

It's sometimes funny how something so simple as a junior reader novel can cause such varied and drastic comments. The comments here caused me to reflect more. The result is something that sprouted into its own post on my blog. I think my viewpoint is different because I've been surrounded by Vampire lore and myth for close to 20 years while others see it through Hollywood's or Halloween's eyes.

I had to come back and play Devil's Advocate, because my daughter and I were talking about this tonight. What if, and it's kind of a big metaphysical "if", one of the reasons that Bella's so headstrong about being with Edward is that she somehow senses that he holds the key to the realization of her potential? After all, he is the way to her eternal life, and that gives her all the time in the world. Maybe the need to be her very best self is one of the driving forces in her psyche. And maybe, if she can just get over that one hurdle (humanity), she can have all that she needs to perfect herself...

I also am conflicted over the Twilight series. On the one hand, I'm thrilled to see a fellow LDS writer do so well. On the other hand, I see Edward as fitting the classic abuser profile: controlling, jealous, stalking, etc., and worry about the appeal he holds for young girls. And I agree with you about how disappointing Bella's aimlessness is (she disappoints me pretty much all the way around).

In addition, I feel the writer of this essay brings up excellent points:

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About this blog

  • When I took a sabbatical from Wall Street to pursue a different dream and help others live theirs, I learned that women in the U.S. may be placated, even pampered, but because we aren't dreaming, we are also desperate and depressed. Drawing on a variety of sources, ranging from academic studies to pop culture, dare to dream encourages us to dream. And then to act on our dreams.


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