wayfarers all

children's literature, childhood and culture (and anything else that strikes my fancy).

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Location: pittsburgh, U.S. Outlying Islands

carbon-based life form: thinking, reading and gardening. New College alum; current grad student writing a dissertation. I specialize in children's literature, media, and culture, and queer/gender studies, with a strong interest in 19th century British literature and culture. I like history, a lot.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

i don't know what to think

today i read stargirl by jerry spinelli. i loved maniac mcgee; milkweed was pretty good (actually, milkweed was brilliant, narratologically speaking. i love a good naive narrator. spinelli and christopher paul curtis are the world masters at naive narrators).

stargirl is - what? i don't know. i don't know how i feel about it. it has the epic/talltale feel that maniac mcgee has, in places, but then it's narrated in the first person (15 years retrospectively, we learn at the end). so the epic tone feels a little discordant.
spinelli is obviously making a point about valuing individuality. i mean, the back of the book says so, and the text isn't much less explicit. but what to do with the book's conclusion? i didn't feel uplifted in the least; instead, i felt depressed and cheated.

i also wonder why there are so many YA books that valorize the oddball - usually female - character. she doesn't wear makeup, rides bikes and eats vegetarian food, wears funky old vintage dresses and strange (or no) shoes. she sings, she dances, she acts. she has no regard for what those are her think.
stargirl, of course, first is loved then slammed for her individuality.

the creeping aftereffects of a forceful personality appear at the novel's end (in a very similar way to maniac mcgee's influence on his community).

but have we really embraced individuality? i always feel peculiar when characters like stargirl appear - because in The Real World (of high schools and anywhere else), people like that are not valorized and celebrated. often they are barely tolerated. stargirl's insularity and naivete are really difficult to manage in the real world. so i wonder how these characters "translate" - are they extremes from which we can place ourselves? Like, you don't have to be as out there as stargirl, but maybe you'd like to, say, bring your guitar to school and serenade people - go for it! or just wear funky old prairiegirl skirts.

i guess maybe i don't get the message of Stargirl, aside from stargirl is cool and everyone else, especially leo, is a fool for trying to get her to conform. but that doesn't offer me much to take away into my real life, though i feel like the book would like me take something away.

perhaps this will be one of those books that percolates around in my brain for awhile and makes itself meaningful in some way.

Question: to whom would you give stargirl? a person like stargirl, a person like leo, a person like hillari kimble?


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