Sunday, April 17, 2011
Enchanted Book Tours Host
This Bird Flew Away – Is this suitable reading for my daughter?
First, allow me to thank Amy Jones for inviting me to be the guest blogger today. I should also introduce myself. My name is Lynda Martin, and I’m the author of This Bird Flew Away, the story of one girl’s stormy voyage from childhood at age nine to womanhood when we leave her twenty years later. I owe much of the authenticity of the novel to my thirty years as an outreach worker in child protection and to my then sixteen-year-old granddaughter.
Yes, the book touches on dark subject matter – domestic violence, alcoholism, child neglect, trafficking in the sex trade – as seen through the eyes of a child, but it also tells a story of the strength inherent in girls, their courage, of love, healing and the bonds of family. It is a sensitive, often humorous portrait of a survivor.
When asked, as I often have been, whether or not this is suitable for “my daughter,” I found there are no easy answers. You would think the first question to spring to my mind would be, “How old is your daughter?” But the question isn’t that straight forward. Much depends on the daughter, her experience of life, her level of maturity. And even more on the mother, I quickly discovered, and her evaluation of her daughter and those aforementioned attributes (often a private hopeful fantasy more than a reality based discussion with the girl.)
The controversy centers around Chapter Nine of the book, a rape scene narrated by the victim, a twelve-year-old girl. This passage, the most difficult to write I’ve ever attempted was first published on Hubpages two years ago, where I invited comments from my fellow writers. Several offers to publish the book had been received conditional on this scene’s removal, but I was reluctant to do so. I’ve re-published the scene and linked it here so that you may judge for yourself.
Bending to social conventions, I rated the novel as suitable for 18 and over – the equivalent of an R in the movie industry even though I had targeted women and mature girls as my audience. Yet, my granddaughter, who had just turned sixteen and assisted me in the writing, shared her copy of the not-quite-final manuscript with many of her friends, ranging in age from 14 to 18. They loved it and sent me ‘fan mail’ via the internet to tell me so.
Conversely, one British Mom who’d asked the title question wrote to me saying:
“You suggested my fifteen year old daughter would enjoy this book. I am appalled. I, myself, found this scene difficult to read and would hate to think my daughter’s first introduction to sex would be something so ugly and violent.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but to imagine your daughter of fifteen has had no introduction to sex seems to me to be the height of denial, but then I was reading my mom’s smutty romance novels at age twelve. In my grade nine class (age fifteen), way back in history, many of the girls were not only knowledgeable, but sexually active. But then, I’ve met parents who believed their twenty-five-year-old child would not have sex outside of marriage.
No sooner had I finished arguing that many girls of fifteen not only had the requisite maturity for this story but related to my heroine’s experiences, than two twelve-year-old girls burst into my life with this comment left on my website two months before my book was published.
"We loved your book, This Bird Flew Away. My mom and I talked about the rape scene, and I wanted to tell you that you did a great job of explaining her feelings without giving a lot of detail. So you know it is a really good story for younger girls too. Bria was so cool, so strong and honest. I felt like she was how I'd like to be. We girls can and do understand these things. I don't think there is anyone my age that doesn't know about sex and rape and what can happen in the world. We, I mean my friend and me really liked that." – Girls Rule
The first question to fly off my fingers after 'how did you get a copy of my manuscript?' was 'does your mother know you’re writing to me?' She did, and although she will remain nameless, she was one of my advance readers who chose to share the story with her daughter, her friend and her friend’s daughter. Before entering into any discourse with these girls, I asked Mom to express her feelings about the novel. She wrote:
“I would suggest that any mother of an adolescent girl share this book. Not only did my daughter completely relate to Bria, her adventures and her trials, but the rape scene was so well written and showed us the fear, pain and confusion of the poor girl, it gave us the perfect opportunity to discuss rape, the dangers we face and all the attendant issues. Bria’s romantic crush on her guardian, her unplanned pregnancy, all of it made for a fruitful conversation. For this I thank you."
I was so impressed with ‘Girls Rule’ in our correspondence that I later asked them to co-author an article called ‘The Twenty-First Century Twelve-Year-Old Girl,’ in which I asked them to present me with stories about girls of their age in the news and interviewed them about their choices.
So, is This Bird Flew Away suitable reading for your daughter? Why not ask your daughter? But before you do, why not read the article co-written by two twelve-year-old girls? I think you’ll be amazed at what they have to say. I was. Here’s the link.
Thank you Lynda for being a guest blogger here at Amy Jones Young Adult Fantasy Fiction. Your book sounds very compelling and broaches a subject that, while difficult to address, is a reality we need to realize.
Click here to purchase This Bird Flew Away.