MARJORIE AND ANNE: THE TWO GIRLS THAT CHANGED MY PERSPECTIVE
Growing up in the suburbs of 1960s Connecticut, I was surrounded by WASPs. I was a Protestant, too—Episcopalian. My father was Catholic, though, so I knew that I wasn’t a true WASP. I was alert to such distinctions. I also thought I understood what it meant to be Jewish. I had a Jewish friend. Her mother was Christian; they had a Christmas tree. I thought that the difference between being Jewish and Christian was like the difference between being Methodist and Congregational.
In sixth grade I fell in love with two books. I found the first one in my mother’s room, Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk, a bestseller of the 1950s. It’s not terribly racy, but I knew my parents would think it was too old for me, so I hid it under my bed, reading it over and over. Marjorie is 17 when it opens, from a traditional Jewish family in 1930s New York City, and she dreams of being an actress. I was fascinated by this Jewish girl and by her New York, her view of Central Park from her apartment in the El Dorado. I learned Yiddish words, and about such things as a kosher home, a bar mitzvah, the meaning of Passover, of opening the door to Elijah, the festival of lights at Hanukkah.
#PitchWars — a diverse perspective | DiversifYAdiversifya.com
You can imagine how utterly delighted I was to find so many diverse submissions this year! Not just in my inbox but all across the board! I can honestly say I’ve never been part of a contest with so many culturally diverse main characters. I’ve seen so many neurodiverse characters and disabled characters. I’ve seen stories dealing with mental illnesses. I can’t even count all the LGBTQ characters!
There was a lot—a LOT—of good in the inboxes and it filled my heart. So before I say anything else: yay you! Yay all of you! Thank you for making all these stories a little more diverse! Never stop doing what you’re doing!
That said, sometimes people try too hard to put diversity into their stories without understanding the group they are writing about. Oftentimes when this happens, you are left with caricatures instead of real people.
What a great, clear post about writing full people when writing diverse characters. What’s that old adage? Treat people the way you would like to be treated? Write all of your characters the way you’d want to be written.
Until recently, Black Pete was uncontroversial. Not because the Dutch are particularly racist, but because Sinterklaas, like the royal family, is sacred in the Netherlands, perhaps because of a dearth of other, specifically Dutch traditions. A matter, in other words, of conservatism.
Such traditions are even more important today, given the view that, in order to safeguard the Dutch national identity, homegrown culture and folklore must not be tampered with — a view expressed primarily, though not exclusively, by the extreme right wing Party for Freedom, run by Geert Wilders.
Dumpster Diving: An Observation on Class in Children’s Books
When my sister and I were kids, we used to play next to (and sometimes on) the dumpsters in the parking lot while my mother cleaned offices. At the age of twenty-two, my mom was a single parent of two small children, putting herself through college while working as a waitress and cleaning lady. We were on food stamps and participated in WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) and AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children). I had free lunch at school. Welfare paid for our childcare so my mom could work and take classes, and somehow, we managed to squeak by.
Eventually my mom graduated and took a job as a teacher, and things improved. They improved even more when she remarried and we became a two-income household. My lunches went from free to reduced-price. And by high school I paid top dollar for my soggy pizza and curly fries and had an allowance of three dollars a week. Which wasn’t half bad in the 1980s, all things considered.
I was a smart kid and did well at school. I got a generous financial-aid package to attend Harvard and found myself living in the Yard, taking classes from future and former US Cabinet officials when I was the age my mom had been when she was cleaning offices and struggling to put food on the table. I was surrounded by private school kids and legacy students. To say I experienced culture shock is putting it mildly.