What book(s) would you write if you weren't so busy doing your scholarship, teaching, and the 150 million other things you have to do every day? Here's one I've been turning over in my mind for about three years now. Maybe someone else will write it; I hope so. This requires some background, so bear with me.
In a couple of weeks, I will be thirty years old. :O I grew up in the 70s and 80s and, because I have excellent parents who read to me for as long as I wanted them to, every single day, running their index fingers along the words as they spoke them,
(not like that LeapFrog "magic wand" that the kids can use to point to a word and hear a recorded voice speak it -- every time I see those LeapPads in the toy aisles of Target or Wal-Mart, I get depressed...it doesn't compare to the intellectual stimulation of having a human being point to the word and say it to the child. I know it's so hard to find the time to read to children as much as both parents and children want, and I don't intend to make any parents feel bad; I only want to point out that I was very lucky to have enormous amounts of time -- and money, what with all the book clubs my parents joined: it seemed that every day, new books arrived in the mail -- invested in my development)
I learned to read before I turned three. After that, my parents had to pull the books out of my hands when they wanted me to pay attention to some non-book-related thing. "Stop reading and eat," they'd scold. I far preferred books to toys, and I read everything. Now, when I bring up childhood reading experiences with women my age, we talk about characters in those 70s and 80s books, like Nancy Drew, Bess, George, Elizabeth Wakefield, Jessica Wakefield, Lila Fowler, Enid Rollins, Bruce Patman, Todd Wilkins, Ramona Quimby, Beezus Quimby, Laura Ingalls Wilder and her sisters Mary and Carrie, Caitlin Ryan, the Girls of Canby Hall, Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace of A Wrinkle in Time, Ned of Jelly Belly, Tony of Then Again, Maybe I Won't, Linda Fischer of Blubber, and Margaret of Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, as though they were old friends. We felt these characters, knew them intimately. They inspired us. We looked at how they handled the situations we found ourselves in, listened to their interpretations of such experiences as first kisses, menarche, getting bullied or standing there doing nothing when someone we liked was getting bullied because we were too afraid to take up for our friend, and we knew we weren't alone in our self-doubt and awkwardness. When I say "we," of course, I mean white, middle-class girls; it speaks volumes that the only book I remember reading about a working-class African-American family was Striped Ice Cream.
I'd love to interview a bunch of women of all races and classes, to record their memories of these characters and what kinds of effects (constructive? alienating?) they had on these women, and then write a book about to what extent and how these books have shaped femininity in my generation.