Thursday, August 11, 2011

Girl(s) to the Rescue

Hey! Hello! Welcome! This is the beginning of Girl to the Rescue, a literary blog that reviews mostly young adult literature, children’s books, graphic novels and fantasy. I’m reviewing books on that little sliding scale from “Best! Book! Ever!” to “Oh my god why did I not just close that thing three pages in?”

Here are some things, I mean like, a small collection:

1. I just finished my MA in English, which means I can go from, “Oh hey, read the canon and only the canon!” to “Wow, I can go back to reading young adult literature again which, you know, is my favorite category of books to read from.” This is my space to write about the books that I read and want to talk about and to start writing for myself again. This primarily means writing about books instead of writing grant applications, progress reports, and lesson plans. For the first time in a long time, I can go back to reading for story, characters, and connection.

2. This September is the first September that I won’t be beginning school again, back after Labor Day until semesters break for holidays and reading weeks, for exams and then the summer. However, I do live across from a public school and I bet that bell is going to ring pretty much every day like it’s saying, “See, you’re really never going to escape this.”

3. Bruce Lansky’s Girls to the Rescue series seems like the best place to start this blog. Lansky was one of the first authors that I met when I was younger, and he was one of the first authors that I actually wanted to meet. His collections of short stories rewrote fairy tales, folk tales, and contemporary stories to feature a female heroine in the place of a Prince Charming or male hero or some kind of champion of the people who also happened to be a man. The books were written for children and adolescents, and I think I started to read them when I was around eight or nine. Lansky’s short story in the first Girls to the Rescue book, “The Fairy Godmother’s Assistant,” was about a young girl who apprentices with the local fairy godmother, however, she “makes lemonade and not magic.” She was this incredibly capable character who doled out advice that you’d read and think, “Hey, you know what? I’m not in a fairy tale or anything but I’m pretty sure I’m going to use that.” I always thought she’d be this really capable person in real life and I’d be able to hear her voice in my head removed from Lansky’s words on the page, and have her say something like, “Oh hey? Cinderella? If you can make a gown for your stepsisters than I bet you can probably make one for yourself. That's just basic logic.” Ten years after reading those stories for the first time I was introduced to Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber in university. That same simple idea of exchanging the hero of a fairy tale with a heroine still sat underneath the complicated layers of language, idea, and setting of Carter’s stories, and I recognized it instantly from my experience reading Girls to the Rescue when I was younger.

4. In a kind of weird sidestep from Lansky’s stories, he’s also known for something else entirely. Now I Google him and the top hits are all for his collections of Baby Name books, even though it was his stories about strong, interesting, and heroic girls that I always knew him by. I can’t remember if the character names he used in some of those Girls to the Rescue stories were the ones you’re always looking for when you’re writing a new character and it’s not going to be any good until you get the name right, like, “Throw me a baby name book, I need some inspiration!”

So: in the next few weeks and months I want to read and write as much as possible. Seriously, I am going to need a new prescription for my glasses and also some sort of brace for carpel tunnel syndrome. Most of what I’ll write about here is young adult literature, but there will also be a strong emphasis on fantasy. I mean, I can quote Lord of the Rings pretty much backwards. Like someone pulled over for a DUI trying to do the straight line walk and starting from Z, I’m doing that starting with maybe those appendices at the end of Return of the King and going all the way back to the Shire or something.

And that’s it. We’re off and also running.

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