For those of who who did not click on the link (or only skimmed the article), Newsweek is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Anne of Green Gables. I am a self-professed Anne aficionado. I grew up reading everything from L.M. Montgomery that I could get my hands on. Anne was one of my favorite heroines of classic literature, along with L.M. Montgomery’s Emily. I read the books in each series over and over and over again. One of my most prized possessions is a first-run copy of the Emily books that belonged to my grandmother. I still read Anne and Emily’s stories when I want to relax and escape into a comfortable world away from my own.
No one recommended L.M. Montgomery’s books to me. I found the Anne series on a bookshelf in one of my teacher’s classroom libraries in elementary school. As I finished the first novel I searched for the second. Then the third. And the fourth. I did the same with the Emily books. I connected with both girls and their love of life, books, writing, imagination, family, and nature. They were never extraordinarily popular with my generation, but occasionally I would find a kindred spirit among my peers. In my own classroom, I recommend L.M. Montgomery’s books to a few of my students who I know will also connect with Anne and Emily.
The article does bring up a few good points. Why isn’t Anne treated like other classic literature, i.e. the stories of Twain? It’s most certainly an easier read than much of canon literature, and I wouldn’t mind seeing it on a suggested summer reading list. Anne is fun, adventurous, and silly! L.M. Montgomery succeeded in writing a timeless tale of growing up and growing older. The article also points out Anne’s similarities to women and well-known characters today- Carrie Bradshaw and Hilary Clinton, for example. Another reason teens and adults today would enjoy reading her stories. But she isn’t hugely popular.
However, one paragraph in the article made me absolutely furious.
That “Anne” has survived so long—and, with 50 million copies sold, so strong—is a small miracle considering the state of young-adult literature. It’s rare to find a best seller with a strong heroine anymore, in large part because, although girls will read books about boys, boys won’t go near a girl’s book, no matter how cool she is. Even in Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series, the strong, grounded Bella is willing to chuck it all for the love of her vampire boyfriend. “The literary smart girl is still showing up in literature, but she’s often the sidekick,” says Trinna Frever, an “Anne of Green Gables” scholar. “It is a reflection of a culture that’s placing less value on intelligence, and also treating intelligence as a stigmatized quality.” As smart as Anne is, you aren’t likely to find her in a classroom, either. She has survived largely through mothers who pass the book on to their daughters.
First of all, what is with the recent YA bashing going on in the media? I was unaware that there are no strong girl heroines in literature these days. And by these days, I mean since 1908, when Anne was first published. Really? REALLY?! There have been no strong female heroines since then? I had no idea! Honestly, someone better run out and tell Sarah Dessen, Laurie Halse Anderson, Ally Carter, Cornelia Funke, Marcus Zusak, Avi, Karen Cushman, Lois Lowry, Cynthia Voight, Jeanne Birdsall, Kate DiCamillo, Meg Cabot, Trenton Lee Stewart, Ann Brashares, Lauren Myracle, E.Lockhart, Libba Bray, Esther Friesner, Jerry Spinelli, Ann Rinaldi, et. al. that they are writing weak female characters!
Seriously? Seriously? SERIOUSLY?? Why is it that journalists are suddenly lamenting the lack of “fill in the blank” in modern YA literature? It is more than obvious that these reporters and bloggers are not doing their research. One only has to google strong female characters to get list upon list of recent books. Hell, just to find books published in the last 50 years! It seems to me that a terrible blight of “woe are we, nothing is like it used to be, what happened to the good old days of real kids books?” is running rampant through our society. Please, I beg of you, talk to a bookseller or a librarian or a teacher before you publish these ignorant rants. Even better, talk to a teen! They can tell you what is out there now and more importantly what they want to read.
Like I said, Anne is a classic. it doesn’t need to be taught in elementary, middle, or high school. Sometimes that just takes all the fun out of it! And don’t worry, some of us did discover her on our own, without someone recommending her to us. And while we may recommend her to more kindred spirits, plenty of teens and kids will continue to find her on their own. Anne should be read by those kindred spirits, not forced on everyone and anyone who is of a certain age. Everyone needs to find their own kindred spirit in YA- whether it be Anne, Emily, Frankie Landau-Banks, Liesel, the Penderwicks, Dicey, Tibby, Gemma, or someone else. Let’s let the kids find their own heroines!