Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tea-sipping With Lifted Pinkies by Christine Fletcher

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Tea-sipping With Lifted Pinkies
by Christine Fletcher, author of Ten Cents a Dance
Note: This isn't about tea, it's about historical heroines. I, Steph, picked a phrase from the text and used it on the title. Just saying, since some have IMed me asking why I asked an author to write about tea... :P

When it comes to strong heroines, you’d think historical YA would be at a disadvantage. After all, what image does “historical” conjure up? Corsets, right? Notoriously crippling of a girl’s stamina. What else? Fainting. Smelling salts. (see Corsets, above.) Also, no independence, few rights, and a whole boatload of rigid social expectations. Commence tea-sipping with lifted pinkies.

Balderdash, I say. Historical heroines could make mincemeat out of present-day fictional gals.

Consider this. In contemporary YA novels, why do so many heroines find themselves shipped off to summer camps, sent on road trips, or forced to live with distant and odd-smelling relatives? To get them out from under parental supervision, that’s why, so that interesting things can happen to them.

Back in the day, though, young adults were, well…young adults. In 1942 (my heroine Ruby’s time), less than half of teens graduated from high school. The rest? They were out in the world, scrapping and tussling and living. At sixteen, Ruby isn’t worried about the junior prom. She’s figuring out how to earn enough dough to support her family, not to mention winning the heart of the neighborhood bad boy. Tea? Sissy stuff. Black coffee during her shifts at the dance hall, that’s the ticket. Forget the raised pinkie.

Compared to now, plenty of teens back in the day found themselves flung into the adult world. Add the fact that any self-respecting fictional heroine has to buck the system (it’s practically a requirement to get in the club) and the stakes rise even higher. Back then, when society’s rules were broken, society got nasty. Look at my own great-aunt. After committing some heinous, unknown sin, Sofia was kicked out of her house and declared dead to her family. At fifteen. In New York City. No one to take her in. Nowhere to go. Can you imagine how tough you’d have to be to survive that?

Don’t get me wrong, contemporary YA girls are far from wimps. But history’s heroines live through revolutions. World wars. Inequality, torturous hairdos (I’ve tried pincurls. They hurt), limited opportunities, no air conditioning, and yeah, the damn corsets. Everything the past can throw at a gal. And yet they come out swinging, with style and sass besides. So if it ever comes to a smackdown, I’m betting on the history girls. Why?

Because in real life, heroines just like them changed the world forever.

Girl Week is a week-long event here on the blog celebrating strong YA heroines and feminism. Find out more about it here.

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Abby said...

Ahhh that's a great post! And I loved Ten Cents a Dance. :) Thanks for posting!

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I think I'll be giving historical fiction a chance now. =)
Any good recommendations?.

Shalonda said...

I'm not really a fan of historical fiction. I've started dabbling in it a little bit, but from what I've read Christine is right--these women kick butt!

Looking back at women like Marie Antoinette and even those not as far in the past like, Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, and women who fought for women's suffrage--they truly are heroines.

Shooting Stars Mag said...

I think those things are still happening today, just maybe not as "talked" about or "written" about, you know? But I must admit...those historical girls DID go through a ton!


jocelyn said...

How much do I love this post? So true! Interesting to think about, too. I'm seventeen and live at home and am still quite dependent on my parents. Most, but not all, seventeen-year-olds today are fairly dependent on their parents. But in the past, a lot of seventeen-year-olds have been independent adults.

Amee said...

This is the best guest post. I loved it! I may be a little biased because I'm still in awe over how freaking fantastic Ten Cents a Dance was!

Em said...

I so want to read this book now. Great guest post! :)

Khy said...

Historical fiction girls are badass. That is all.

(Ok, maybe that's not all. I must add something: I thought the title said "Leftied Pinkies" at first. I got quite confused. I blame my math homework for turning my brain to mush.)

ellie_enchanted said...

Short and to the point: historical heroines rule.

Both in fiction and in real life, strong females helped change da world. We rule, yeah!

Kimberly Derting said...

Great points! So many parents (and I'm as guilty as the next!) are so busy sheltering our kids that we forget we're supposed to be preparing them to go out into the world as adults. Interesting that just over half a century ago they were already out there.


Alessandra said...

As ellie-enchanted already said, historical heroines rule!

I've just finished reading The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory and I must say that Mary Boleyn is a very strong female character; I think you'd like the book! Also, when the book opens she's about fourteen, so she's in her teens for at least half of the narration.

Sarah Woodard said...

Great post. I love historical fiction.

Jodie said...

Love this post - I just bought this book last week after a stellar review at Bookshelves of Doom and I can't wait to read it.

Vasilly said...

What a great post! I need to start reading historical YA novels.

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