Friday, November 26, 2010

Willy Wonka as Marie Antoinette: Classism in Children's Classics

"Let them eat cake... er... chocolate!"

I know that, at least per director Sofia Coppola's film Marie Antoinette, the soon-to-be-beheaded French monarch never made that insensitive comment. Telling her hungry subjects to eat cake, I mean. What kind of a monster would do such a thing, after all? Telling hungry people to eat bon-bons when all they want is a good square meal, or better yet, the ability to earn the money to give their family good square meals every day from now on?

Teach a Frenchman to fish, and he learns a trade. Give a Frenchman a fish, and he makes salmon crudites. (or something like that)

But then, what about the beloved Mr. Willy Wonka of Roald Dahl's children's classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Doesn't he do the same thing as ole Queen Marie A.? Doesn't he tell the poor and hungry to, well, eat chocolate?

I didn't remember the depths of the Bucket family's poverty until I began reading the story aloud to my 6 and 8 year olds recently. Chapter 10: The Family Begins to Starve was tonight's fare, and although both I and my 8year old knew the outcome of the story (as did, really, my 6year old too who kept insisting "Charlie must get the fifth golden ticket. There's only one left and why else would the story be called Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?), all of us had tears in our eyes as I read about the family's hunger. We shivered as the cold drafts swept through the ramshackle Bucket house, we felt that watery cabbage soup slip down our throats, we could see Charlie saving his energy - taking 10 extra minutes on the way to school, resting at recess while the other children played - lest he use up his meager physical resources on anything but dire necessity. When the frail old grandparents - all four piled up in a bed - retold the story of Charlie trying to slip his mother his breakfast, all of our hearts broke. As the adult in the room, I even took it further, imagining the frustration of an elderly grandparent consuming finite family resources while he watches his beloved grandson starve before his eyes. Death, I imagined, would be welcome for Grandpa Joe if it meant that Charlie got an extra 1/2 potato at lunchtime.

Then, a miracle happens. Charlie wins this storybook's version of the lottery. His numbers strike in the form of the fifth golden ticket to Mr. Willy Wonka's magical candy factory - place of dreams and unending chocolate waterfalls. Dahl's writing, like that chocolate waterfall, is delicious and filling - it transports you from the vividness of starvation to that heavenliness of golden possibilities - possibilities that sweep Charlie out of poverty right before serious malnutrition and end-organ damage set in.

But then my observant 6 year old opened my eyes wide to the classism of this narrative:

Daughter (outraged): "Wait a minute, Charlie's family is starving, and all Mr. Wonka will give them is chocolate?"

Me: "Er, maybe he'll give them food too."

Daughter (not buying it, the guy owns a chocolate factory after all, not a Whole Foods): "You know, they'll get brown teeth if they eat all that chocolate."

Me: "Er, maybe they'll brush alot."

Daughter: "I don't know if they have the money to buy toothbrushes. They're very poor, you know."

Me: "Er..."

Daughter: "Now, if Willy Wonka gives them toothbrushes too, that would be fair, because it would be mean to give them so much chocolate and no toothbrushes."

Indeed. It is pretty unfair to hand out chocolate like there is no tomorrow, and not hand out toothbrushes too.  Or that adult version of the toothbruth - dental insurance. Mr. Bucket just lost his job at the toothpaste factory, after all. Without any severance. Or labor protests. Or union safety nets. And definitely no unemployment insurance. Certainly no Medicaid for the old folks. No Child Health Plus for Charlie. No WIC for mommy.

And what about that one, singular lottery ticket anyway? What about all the other Charlies and Charlines who didn't find tickets? And never will?

Dahl's narrative, besides being a thinly disguised portrayal of African slavery in the form of the Oompa-Loompas, also manifests the noble poor narrative made famous by the ever-cheerful Tiny Tim of A Christmas Carol. The 'deserving' poor don't complain, or organize toothpaste factory walk-outs, but soldier on cheerfully, trying to sneak their mums their own breaksfasts as their stomach linings turn in on themselves. And as a reward for such behavior, and such gastric gymnastics, they find golden tickets, and maybe even inherit untold wealth from kooky old uncles (think Dickens' Great Expectations, and remember too that all the other golden tickets winners except Charlie represent greed, avarice, and excessive gum chewing and TV watching).

Be poor, kids, but don't complain, and maybe - just maybe - you'll inherit a chocolate factory staffed by your own unpaid, imprisoned, slave population! Noble (white) poor becomes king/employer/factory owner of kind-of-noble (Black) savages? Eek. Did Dahl really have to go there?

What other children's stories portray poverty and how? All I can think about right now is Dickens, and that poor, dirty faced Oliver wanting extra porridge.

"Please, sir, can I have some more?"

Well, what about showing how Oliver, or Charlie, or Pip, didn't just make it as individuals, but organized their communities? (Does organizing a community of pickpockets make the Artful Dodger some kind of neo-Marxist?) What about teaching a boy to make a chocolate factory, rather than fish in one?


I think that's a chocolate covered (gluten free) eclair over there calling my name.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

MITALI PERKINS: Awesome Author Interview...and Book Giveaway!

Before I read any of Mitali Bose Perkins' wonderful novels, I already felt like I knew her. It was a strange experience for a lifelong reader who was used to 'getting to know' authors the old fashioned way - through their books. But I found Mitali's website, "Mitali's Fire Escape: A Safe Place to Think, Chat and Read about Life Between Cultures"  before I found her work. And finding the website was, in a sense, finding my writerly 'home' - even though it was a cybernetic one. Here was a woman of similar background - who, as it turns out, speaks the same language -- not only writing fascinating books, but creating a space for discussions of race, culture and family in children's and YA writing.

As I've gotten to "know" Mitali through her books, I've continued to send all and sundry to her website. If you haven't visited - check it out. The view is wonderful from the fire escape! And the hostess? Well, she's gracious, wise, humble and extraordinarily generous - with her own experiences, her challenges, and her inspirations.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Mitali recently, and wasn't surprised to see that she provided lots of online links and material for the readers of Stories are Good Medicine. And for one lucky reader, leaving a comment below will mean winning a copy of Mitali's latest book, Bamboo People. But more on that later - first, the interview!

Q:  Tell us about the research you did before writing Bamboo People - a story about teenage soldiers in the Burma.  What inspired you to write this story?

Mitali: I've been writing novels featuring South Asian girls for years—Indian-Americans, Indians, Pakistani-Americans, Bangladeshis. It was high time to write about a guy. Bamboo People, set along the Thai-Burma border, features not one male protagonist, but two.

For three years my husband, children, and I lived in Chiang Mai, Thailand. While we were there we visited the Karenni refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border. I was astounded at how the Karenni kept their hopes up despite incredible loss, still dreaming and talking of the day when they would once again become a free people. I was impressed, too, by how creatively they used bamboo. Homes, bridges, transportation, weapons, food, storage, irrigation—all these and more depended on the resilient, lavish, and ecologically efficient bamboo plant. I began to think about that plant as an excellent symbol for the peoples of that region.

During that time I also began to understand how tough life is for Burmese teenagers. Only about a third are enrolled in school, and most can’t find jobs. According to international human rights organizations, Burma has the largest number of child soldiers in the world, and that number is growing. These young soldiers are taught that the Karenni and other ethnic groups are the cause of the problems in their country and are rewarded with money and food if they burn, destroy, torture, and kill ethnic minorities.

I wanted to tell both sides of the story -- a refugees' perspective and the view from young soldiers who are forced to fight against their wills.

Find out more here:

Q: What has been the reaction of the Burmese community to Bamboo People? Do you know of any reaction from Myanmar/Burma itself?

Mitali: Not much, except for a couple of tweets by first-gen Burmese Americans who liked it. And only the spoof on my blog:

(Note to Readers: This spoof really had me going! Check it out!)

Q: I know you have teenage sons at home - does your own parenting influence the stories you choose to write? Do your kids read your work? (And are they good editors?)

Mitali: My sons are why I had the courage to write boy protagonists. All of my other books are written from the girl that I used to be. But now that I'm the mother of boys, I feel a bit more able to see life through masculine eyes.

Q: Can you tell us about how you began to write children's fiction?  Do you have any advice for beginning children's writers? (not that I know any)

Mitali: Here's the story of my start in children's books and some advice via video: <>

(Note to readers: A Great Interview of Mitali courtesy of Mommy Niri! Many thanks!)

Q: There seems to be a real growing community of South Asian (women) children's fiction writers.  Why do South Asian women write such fabulous books? (not that I'm prejudiced or anything)

Mitali: It's exciting to see so many different South Asian voices and views in the storytelling world. The more we hear, the greater the chance that we avoid "the danger of a single story," a disaster so aptly described by Chimamanda Adichie in her Ted talk: <>

(Note to Readers: I absolutely LOVE this talk and have used it all the time in various presentations. If you haven't seen it - see it now! If you haven't read Chimamanda Adichie's work, read it now!)_ 

Q. Tell us about your website/blog "Mitali's Fire Escape: A Safe Place to Chat About Books Between Cultures" - why the image of a fire escape?  Are 'books between cultures' dangerous? How?

Mitali: Life between cultures can feel unsafe. As a new immigrant, caught between the unfamiliar culture around me and the mores of my traditional parents, I used to crawl out on our fire escape and seek safety in stories. That's why I use the fire escape image on my blog -- my vision is to create a safe place for discussions about stories, race, and culture.

Q: What are your favorite multicultural books on the children's market today? What would you like to see more of? 

Mitali: Feel free to browse my interviews with authors of some of my favorite multicultural books: <

Q: What do you struggle with in your writing? How do you find sources of support?

Mitali: Struggles? Procrastination. Lack of confidence. Support? Writing buddies, conferences, twitter, facebook, prayer.

Q: Favorite books growing up?  What's on your bedstand now?

Mitali: Currently, I'm re-reading OLD-FASHIONED GIRL by Louisa May Alcott because of our community read this December: <>

Q: Can you tell us about any WIP?  (Sexy, brooding, South Asian vampires, perhaps? No?)

Mitali: Work in progress is still in the idea stage, but maybe you've got something there, my dear.

Q: Are your stories good medicine? (I think so, but I'd love to hear your answer!)

Mitali: I'd like to think they widen readers' hearts.  Other books certainly shaped mine: <>

Thank you to Mitali for being so generous - with your time, your resources, and your ideas!

To the readers of Stories are Good Medicine, simply leave a comment below by December 3, and you might be the one lucky winner of Bamboo People!  (If you blog, tweet, or repost to FB and tell me about it, I'll put your name in the magic hat twice!)

In light of long imprisoned pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi's recent release from house arrest in Myanmar, it seems particularly fitting that we should be celebrating with Mitali's important story about the experiences of child soldiers and refugees in Myanmar. If you haven't read it - it's a must!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Barbie Saves Ganesh from Scopophilic Binoculars: Story at 11

The other day, my 6 year old put on a 'puppet show.' There were tickets with our names on them, seats, and a curtain that also sometimes doubles as a homemade fabric-painted superhero/princess cape.

The plot of the show was fascinating - rife with transcultural references to our new globalized world order. Gender, myth, tradition, and ritual were all critically examined and challenged, as were thinkers like Freud, Judith Butler and Laura Mulvey.

Most importantly, the performance underscored the critical connections between old and new stories (check out Ganesh with his laddus and the cable remote over here), the importance of, as fantasy writer Cindy Pon has recently said, recognizing how connected mythological traditions and folk stories are across national and cultural boundaries. And of course, how important it is, when writing about myths and traditions, to both be respectful, but not, well, lose the fun of it.

So back to my obviously brilliant daughter's show. What was the plot? In short - the scene opens to danger. Ganesh is in trouble. He is being chased ("Help! Help!") by a magical lanyard snake (*cough* phallic symbol anyone?) and the voyeuristic desires of a giant pair of binoculars ("Don't LOOK at me like that!"). The tension mounts. The audience is on the edge of their, well, sofa pillows that have been arranged on the floor. And just when we think that poor Ganesh, Hindu god and remover of obstacles, is going to be, like, obliterated, the heavens open and an apsari arrives. No, actually, it's actually not a divine feminine figure from Hindu mythology. Rather, it's that divine symbol of gendered Western commercialism - Barbie. And wouldn't you know it? Even without her pink plastic convertible (this isn't Malibu Barbie we're talking about, after all), my girl Babs, like, totally saves the day!

Deep, right?

So then it occurred to me that, gosh dang it, kids say the darnest things. (and then, "Dude, my kid is sooo getting into Harvard.")

I mean, come on, wasn't it incredibly insightful of the playwrite to interrogate Ganesh's performance of masculinity as a site of serious Hindu cultural tensions? (For those of you who aren't familiar with the Hindu myths: Ganesh, elephant headed son of Parvati and uber-masculine Shiva, has always been a bit of a mythological mama's boy: created by Parvati alone while Shiva was out of town on a millenia-long mediation retreat, he is the ultimate son of a single mother. In fact, it was Ganesh's father's inability to recognize him that made Shiva - who's always had issues with anger - blow off his, er, head. And then, realizing it's *bummer, dude* his son, Shiva goes and gets the head of an elephant to replace it with.)

So here was my daughter enacting that crisis of masculinity (hello? your father can't recognize you as his own as you guard your mother's bathroom door and therefore - at least temporarily - kills you?) with that symbol of the attacking lanyard phallus. (Thank goodness the Lord Ganesha, rolly-polly lover of sweet laddus, never had to go to Camp Vrindavan and make lanyards with the other divine/mythological kids - he would definitely have been picked last for volleyball team.) In fact, even when his mother Parvati (also called Durga) insists Ganesh get married - being the first son of the family and all - he can't replace his mother's power and her role as his #1 leading lady - so he marries a banana tree.

And then there's the cross-cultural crossover and gender role reversal issues enacted by Barbie. I mean, it so didn't matter that this particular Barbie was dressed in, like, some seriously satiny and sparkly pink princess dress. NOR that her stomach plays a weird version of Brahm's Lullaby (I think that's what it is) when you press her (rather flat - she must do a lot of pilates) abs. No, none of those trappings of consumerist femininity mattered, man. Barbie kicked some serious butt in this play. She swooped in swept poor Ganesha right off his feet. If he was wearing glass slippers he would definitely have lost them (of course you shouldn't wear shoes during acts of Hindu worship, so he wasn't). 

Although The Gita is a bit sketchy on references to the divine acts of Barbie, that's obviously a serious shortcoming of the Hindu holy book. I mean, Barbie didn't just save Ganesh from the attacks of a mainstream masculine expectation ("rock on, Mama's boy, there's room for all kinds of masculinity" I almost heard her saying), but also from the scopophilic desires of an all-seeing eye.  As the makers at Mattel clearly know, it was Michel Foucault who taught us that the power of the state over individual bodies is enacted through the gaze - for those of you unfamiliar with cultural studies or French philosophy, think the unblinking 'eye of Sauron' in The Lord of the Rings. And dude, what other feminine superhero knows what it is to be oppressed by the voyeuristic gaze than Barbie? (or maybe Wonderwoman - that bustier-like superhero suit was clearly meant for the gaze of the masculine Other, not her own invisible-plane-flying convenience.)

But Babs wasn't having it, man. She wasn't going to give into the enactment of state power. She wasn't going to be a docile body. Nor, for that matter, was she going to stand around, all perky-chested, and allow her fellow gender-role-transgressor to be oppressed. Nope, she was all for solidarity across mythic traditions (Hindu, US consumerist), and against gender binarisms.  She kung-fu-ed that lanyard and those binoculars to Kingdom-come. (or at least, all the freakin' way across the family room fireplace, which is far, dude.)

So the writing lesson from my daughter's fabulous theaterical extravaganza? To play with mythological traditions, and across them. To do unexpected things. To enact politics in writing without hitting people over the head with them. To have fun - fill your writing with wit and whimsy and extravagant things.

Culture isn't only serious. Myths are living, breathing, and dynamic stories that can give insight into deep philosophical questions, but also hours of family fun.

My new favorite "kids book that will never get written" is Barbie rescues Ganesh. What are some of yours?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Story Rx: Flirt with your favorite city... in writing. Make a city a character

I'm in a New York state of mind.

And I have Rachel Cohn and David Levithan to blame for it.

A couple weeks ago, it was through their avatars Nick & Nora and their infinite playlist of snarky yet tender banter, their quintissential bridge-and-tunnel meets lower East Side I-cut-holes-in-my-stockings-that-I-just-got-at-Ricky's-on-my-dad's-credit-card vibe. Maybe I was never as cool as Nick & Nora, but they weren't so judge-y as to remind me of that fact as I read their novel. Just as I wasn't so crass as to remind them that I was a middle aged woman with my own credit card and they weren't even of age, nonetheless, well, real.

It was a perfect relationship. Me, the two make-believe teens with alliterative names, and the city. *sigh* The City.

Nick&Nora didn't seem to mind if, even in my Manhattan heyday, I never went to clubs with queercore bands or walked around Park Avenue at sunrise, or even ate borscht in some alphabet city diner.  But their novel reminded me of a time when Manhattan and I were much more flirty. When I actually dressed up (or dressed down) for my rendezvous with the city. When the city and I locked eyes in the subway, exchanged phone numbers in Gristedes, and kissed in running taxicabs. Before I had kids, before I hit the suburbs, before I went gluten free, Manhattan and I used to pick up baguettes and cheese and wine and have picnics in central park - whether the symphony was playing or not. New York uncomplainingly held my purse while I shopped for chachkis in Chinatown, it held my hand in the dark at the Paris theater, and it took me for breakfast at 3am at that great French place in the meatpacking district WAY before it became trendy.

I was a little bereft when I had to leave Nick&Nora behind the closed covers of their book. More bereft, perhaps, than when I actually left New York City. And so I'm just beyond delighted to have met my two new New York City loves: Dash&Lily. Oh, and one more character in our menage-a-many urban romance: the Strand bookstore.

The Strand. The Straaand. The Strand! *shiver* Ah, that delightful palace of bookishness, that perfumerie specializing in eau-de-slightly-musty-out-of-print-volumes, that kink store of orgasmic intellectualism.

I drove down 5th avenue yesterday morning from 110th street to 23rd... my love New York was still rubbing the sleep out of its eyes. But even with sticky-up hair, even with bleary eyes, even with morning breath steaming out of its subway grates, my city was beautiful. From Harlem and El Museo del Barrio to Eloise and the Plaza, the UN, and everything in between. But to be honest, I have Dash&Lily to thank for reminding me how much I love this city.

Which got me thinking - what other novels make me feel this way? About this city or any other? The television show Sex and The City did, for about a season, until it spoiled our romance by over-selling the idea of "city as character" -- kind of like, I guess, the Disney-fication of 42nd street. After a few seasons, and a few thousand Manolo Blahnik references, that idea didn't feel fresh any more. Not so with either Nick&Nora, or Dash&Lily. (or, I suppose, Cohn and Levithan)

So I thought I'd ask you, what novels (YA or otherwise) remind you how much you love your city (ies)?

How many of you have written "cities as characters" in your own writing?


Friday, November 12, 2010

Books Made My Baby A Bolshevik! On Radical Children's Literature

"A stands for Armaments, war-monger's pride

B is for Bolshie, the thorn in their side

C stands for capitalists, fighting for gold"

So begins "ABC for Martin" from Martin's Annual (1935), but one of the fourty-four fascinating children's texts (many out of print) exerpted and reprinted in Julia Mickenberg' and Philip Nel's 2008 book Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children's Literature.

Just on the next page is another imagining of the ABCs, this time Lucille Clifton's The Black BC's (1970):

"A is for Africa/land of the sun/the king of continents/the ancient one" 

According to Mickenberg and Nel, Clifton wrote the book as "an Afrocentric challenge to Eurocentric education" after hearing her children referring to Africa as "the dark continent."

I recently bought this gem of a book after bumping into a rather wonderful and radical woman in the bookstore: my children's ex-kindergarten teacher. She was looking at it, and I couldn't resist the recommendation of a woman who had so nurtured the imaginative and adventurous streaks in both my children's. And besides, I really couldn't resist the eenie weenie baby Bolshevik on the cover.

Reading this collection has gotten me thinking about the radicalizing potential of children's literature. After all, as a brown skinned girl growing up in the American midwest, my very first explicit conversation about racism with my parents happened after hearing Dr. Seuss' The Sneetches read aloud. (To this day, one of my father's favorite pet phrases is, "Oh, you snootie old smarties, now we can come to your frankfurter parties.")  Similarly, I was first encouraged to challenge the idea of two fixed genders when, as a child, my mother brought home from college a mimeographed (yes, there was life before fax machines and email, children) copy of Lois Gould's X: A Fabulous Child's Story  (about a baby named "X" who refuses to gender-identify and all the child's challenging and wonderful experiences - playing with gender neutral toys, using the teacher's bathroom since X can go into neither the boy's nor the girl's rooms, etc.).

In subtle and not-so-subtle ways, such children's literature can and has encouraged a frank examination of social mores, systems of power, and structures of oppression. Think about the authority challenging Max of Where the Wild Things Are, the environmentally conscious Lorax of Dr. Seuss, or even that the Little Engine that Could is (did you remember this?) female. 

In a time when many bemoan the frothiness of children's and YA literature, it is comforting to remember that children's literature also has a long history of radicalism.  For a recent rundown of the "9 most subversive children's books ever written" see here - although the Mickenberg and Nel collection gives those 9 a good run for their money. And for a fabulous digital collection of radical children's literature click around this Syracuse University site.

Whatever your feelings about mini-Bolsheviks railing against capitalist war-mongers, I think we can all agree that equality, freedom, justice are pretty fabulous values for literature to share with our children. Hopefully, they will carry these ideals from books into their hearts and minds, from their hearts and minds, into the future that they will create.

In Clifton's words, "Writing is a way of continuing hope." Or, as she writes in The Black BC's: "H is for Heroes/ who follow a dream/however impossible/ it may seem"

What are your favorite radical children's books?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Jane or Cathy? Smart or Naughty? Can a Female Protagonist be Both?

First, the HBO show Mad Men asked women to choose:  were we a Marilyn or a Jackie?

As much as I am devoted to the brilliantly written show, that question didn't sit well with me, smacking of the old "goddess"/"whore" dichotomy of womanhood - in other words, women can be wifely or mistress-like but not both. In either case, our identities are limited, and circumscribed solely in relation to our heterosexual romantic relationships, and not by our autonomous goals, desires, and capabilities.

Now, the Guardian U.K. booksblog re-asks that Jackie/Marilyn question in a slightly more palatable (or at least literary) form: Are you a Jane (Eyre) or a Cathy (Earnshaw.. from Wuthering Heights)?

Well, that's my re-telling anyway. The Guardian booksblog actually puts forth the interesting notion of "The Battle of the Brontes." In other words, that the world can be divided into readers who are  either Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights fans. In the author's opinion, the first category - drawn to the bookish, stalwart Miss Eyre, are "librarians" while (whilst?) the second category - drawn to the tempestuous, sensual Cathy are "rockstars", and that in the end, "you can't be both."

Hm.. By these standards, I am, undoubtedly, a Jane. She was one of the first 'grown up' books I ever read - and the romance between the grey-clad, steely governess and the dark, mysterous Rochester is one of my perennial favorites. Heathcliffe I enjoy in small doses - particularly in the flavor of Laurence Olivier - but the bratty Cathy I'm afraid I can't stand at all (unless she's being sung about by Kate Bush: "Heathcliffe, it's me-e, Cathy-y, let me into your window-o-o-o"). And I've only read Wuthering Heights (shriek!) once, as opposed to the thousands (ok, tens) of visits I've made to Thornfield Hall. So that I suppose that makes me a librarian.

But isn't the Jane/Cathy dichotomy merely a smartened up version of Jackie/Marilyn or goddess/whore feminine dilemma? Sure, we're talking about (both male and female) readers and not women having to embody either Jane or Cathy as people, but to me the question ends up being rather similar.

Which got me thinking - isn't it possible to be both smart and naughty? Shy and daring? A rock n'roll librarian (and not of the 'sexy librarian/school teacher in a sexist music video' variety, thank you very much?)?

And then, I came upon it (thanks to a brilliant tweet by author Meg Cabot) - my favorite heroine who is both smart and naughty, sweet and spicy:  the one and only Miss Harriet Vane of the Dorothy L. Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries. For those of you who are book lovers - of the MG/YA ilk OR the adult - run out and consume ALL of these novels immediately. And then watch the BBC television versions. And then read them again (Have His Carcase and Gaudy Night are tied as my favorites in this series). Harriet's an Oxford grad, terribly bookish (a bluestocking even), but not above having had a lover in 1920's England - and, well, then, being charged with his murder. Oh, and being the object of the dashing Lord Peter's affections. Oh, and not falling all gooey-ly into his arms right away because, well, the woman's got a spine, dash it. But Lord Peter continues to love her for her brains, wit and charm as they solve grisly murders together...


What other heroines match Harriet's smarts and dash? In the YA world, perhaps Kiki Strike, but most others strike me as either smart or naughty - but not both. (Is this, *gasp* a complicated quality one can only achieve in adulthood? Perhaps... although this list of feminist heroines at Forever YA holds some strong contenders...)

In which case, who are your favorite smart but naughty grown up heroines?

In her tweet, Meg Cabot suggested that Harriet might have stayed with Mr. Rochester after she found out about wifey#1 up in the metaphorical (and actual) attic, because, well, Harriet just rolls like that. (Ms. Cabot didn't actually say it in those words.)

But I have a different interpretation. I might suggest that Harriet (if occupying the literary world of the Bronte sisters) would skip out on dour Rochester altogether, get Heathcliffe the Prozac prescription (and haircut, and shower...) he needs, and maybe take up with, say, dashing old Darcy in Miss Austen's classic. Or, for that matter, just finish her PhD already and then travel around with Lord Peter while she writes a fabulous but academically questionable (though certainly charming and opinionated) blog...