Kids, reading, and "good" lit...

McMullin, Elise mcmullea at
Tue Aug 10 18:35:33 EDT 1999

Hallie said:
"(And they say women can't think clearly!)"

>Hmph! Sounds like something They would say.  What are They playing at?
>"I suppose this is the flip side of Deborah's "Ingary is telling Sophie many
>stories of how she ought to be".  Sophie has been listening, but have other
>people been listening to her?  It's certainly a much stronger theme in F &
>H, with Ivy and Reg absolutely incapable of listening to Polly, and indeed
>having a vested interest in *not* listening.  Tom, of course, offers the
>contrast of listening to her, until (from the best of motives) he shuts her
>off too.  It's absolutely gut-wrenching when Tom starts treating Polly the
>way Mary Fields (ugh) does, and, for me, at least, made Polly's behaviour
>completely understandable.  Gran tries to be a listener, and is, except
>when she hits walls and can't comprehend things, based on her own (very
>lonely) experience.   The parents not listening theme appears again in
Christopher Chant, obviously, and probably others."

Yes the Self-Involved Parents - from reading dwj's autobio it sounds
like she had a pair of that variety herself, so she knows whereof she
speaks.  It's also really handy for kids getting away to have
adventures!  But imho dwj is after exploring these things in greater
detail and very truthfully - more than just having parents on vacation
or something.  Because it really can be a disservice to kids to suggest,
even fictionally, that *all* adults categorically have your best
interests at heart and know what's best for you so you need not think
for yourself once the grown ups show up to save the day.  Look how wrong
Christopher Chant was about his Uncle Ralph, who did exactly that - he
showed up to save the day and Christopher admired him tremendously - and
missed any number of hints and indications about who the Wraith was and
so on, because he trusted blindly.  Oops!  (Aside: I really like in dwj
how the characters can mess up but move on.  Like, it's okay to make
>mistakes - it's how you learn).
>"But that active not listening is really denying the other person the right
>of a voice, and in effect, denying their very
personhood - the essence of emotional abuse."

And a  sad side of it is that a lot of times the parents/grown-ups what
have you are just doing what was done to them in their turn, it's what
they know.  So once there was a little kid who went through the same
thing - and oh nightmare - grew up and did it themselves and probably To
themselves as well which I think anyone would hate to realize.
>"But it's almost as if there's a prelude to this, which is also vital: that
>people can do huge
damage to children by refusing to listen to them, thereby making it more
>difficult for the children to learn to trust their own voices, take
responsibility for themselves, accept and use their gifts - all that
>good stuff."

I knew dwj was a force for good!  ;)  If I talked about this more I
would get sucked into speaking of societal forces and all sorts of
amorphous things which I read about somewhere or other, not to mention
preconceptions and beliefs, oi! And really I'd be speculating instead of
going close to my own experience.  I can only paraphrase this bhuddist
thing I read somewhere and thought sounded useful - be grateful for the
difficult things because they give you more of a chance to learn and
grow.  Uh, sentiments along those lines.  It's a little softer than -
what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, also a favorite of mine ;)  Of
course, I seek these things out because I am still processing the
info/learning from my own dysfunctional family - lots of company -

Oh but that reminds me of another thing I was thinking arising from this
discussion.  Where would Sophie be without the Witch of the Waste?  Oh
sure, the Witch wasn't acting with Sophie's ultimate good uppermost in
her mind, but if she hadn't turned Sophie old and thrown all sorts of
difficulties in her path, maybe Sophie would have become that jealous
auntie I mentioned before.  Nemesis is a odd kind of goddess....

Oh, I'll leave with a quote I really liked from Scales in Dark Lord of
Derkholm, "I don't hold with it," said the great green dragon. "No
living creature has the right to claim wisdom.  There is always more to
find out."

There's subversion for ya!

To unsubscribe, email dwj-request at with the body "unsubscribe".
Visit the archives at

More information about the Dwj mailing list