19 October 2010

Day 206: Role Models

Role Models by John Waters.  ISBN: 9780374251475.

I appreciate Waters's inclusion of literary role models, both those who write and those present as characters in the books.  Of course, Waters seems to take the stand that role models should also be people you do not wish to model yourself after, so some of his choices make more sense than they would otherwise.

Off the top of my head I can only remember a few people in books that I felt were influential enough to become role models.  Roald Dahl's Matilda was probably one of them.  I liked the idea of being so smart that your brain compensates for boredom by giving you the power to move objects with your mind.  I also identified somewhat with her family situation and admired her ability and willingness to leave her family behind.  It's strange that someone who was rumored to hate children so much put the needs of this particular child over the supposed dignity of her parents in this particular story.  Perhaps Dahl had very specific definitions of what he thought a child should be and hated anything outside of that (and children are very good at being outside of definition).

Matilda's influence lasted a pretty long time.  I read voraciously and sometimes willingly went to detention so I could either read without the distraction of stray balls, dust, or screaming during recess or to finish my homework early so I could read from the end of school all the way till bedtime.  When I got a little older and read Parable of the Sower at age 14, Laura Olamina just blew me away.  Everything she said made sense.  Of course we should prepare for the worst and learn as many new skills and as much information as possible.  The worst thing that could happen is that you don't use it, but if you need it, you have it!  Plus her appreciation of every member of her community felt very right to me.  Different people bring different skills and problem solving abilities and can make contributions by sharing and using that knowledge.

I think I also liked most of Anne McCaffrey's heroines as well.  I believe I started reading her novels around the same time I picked up sci-fi books.  I didn't really much identify with the male characters for some reason, despite not feeling quite "feminine" either.  Boy characters seemed to have a little more freedom and swagger than I felt I had at the time.  I don't feel that I was limited by anyone, but I definitely think I did not receive the encouragement my brother received, and I certainly did not have the benefit of the "Boys will be Boys" treatment.  You can bet I got in more trouble for doing things my brother did just because they weren't "ladylike."

Oh! Valentine from Ender's Game was an amazing character that I very much identified with.  I mean, not only did she have a somewhat cruel and manipulative brother, but she also had one who was a freakin' hero and could do no wrong in her parents' eyes.  How is that NOT my brother separated into two people?  Plus she was an amazing political writer, and at the time I very, very much wanted to be a writer.  I think there's some small part of me that still does, but I realize how small the chances of being successful at that are.  I do think if I had the ability to dedicate all my time to writing (more so than now even) I would actually be able to produce something worth reading; this is a huge change even from when I was 14 where I wanted to be a writer, but had no idea how to actually do that.

My review can be found on Goodreads.  If I used a rating system on this blog, it would receive two pancakes and a waffle, the term waffle having a double meaning.  Mmmm waffles.


  1. Matilda was also inspiring to me, more for the voracious reading part than anything else. Also, I just loved uber-smart characters who I wished I could be like. When I was in high school, I read Laurie King's Beekeeper's Apprentice and fell in love with Mary Russell as a character worth emulating.

  2. hmmm, don't think I've picked up Beekeeper's Apprentice. I don't care much for Holmes's snooty attitude, but maybe seeing him outdone (or at least equaled) by a teenage girl will somehow be vindicating.


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