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Friday, October 10, 2003

A Side Note on the Friday Five

As I've been compiling people's responses to the Friday Five this week (no kidding, I'm really thrilled with the good advice), I have been interested by the way that some have addressed the implicit gender issues. Boys are different than girls -- not so much so as some would believe, not so little as others would believe, but different nonetheless. As I look back on my experiences in childhood, it seems to me that boys have an aching need for heroes and role models that is just not present in girls to the same degree. (Of course, insert the usual disclaimers -- broad classifications cannot define particular individuals, and it's merely an expression of degree.)

It is that need for heroes that makes me wonder about whether the development of "character" in a boy would be particularly formed by his choice of role models. My own heroes were particularly countercultural, from the rebel farmboy Luke Skywalker to blacklist breaker John Henry Faulk. I almost cannot contemplate the reverse, in which a boy's heroes were of the system, instead of in opposition to it. I have no connection to Washington or Lincoln; I have a knee-jerk reaction against the idealistic representation of anyone except the countercultural heroes like King and Gandhi. And I am particularly alienated from the young men in "All Quiet on the Western Front," who went to war drunk on glamorous notions of honor and glory. But that is the extreme case, seen as error by all. Did I err too much in the opposite direction? Could I have benefited from a little more of the usual flag-waving? It's something that I have been contemplating lately.

At any rate, these musings do not have to affect the actual question that was posed. I certainly agree that any recommendation of children's literature would be appropriate for both boys and girls, with the possible exception of girl-cootie stuff like "Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret."

In the end, it's all just nudges and suggestions. Jonah will find his own way, and develop his own tastes. And I will be fascinated to watch it unfold. Until then, I'll read to him about the great green room and the Cat in the Hat and Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout and Mike Mulligan and giving a pig a pancake and a dinner that was still hot. And if he's still in the mood, I'll get him to tell me about Charlotte, and the Vermicious Knids, and the land that lies just behind the wardrobe.

And if I also deform his tender brain with Monty Python, who can blame me?

 1:52 PM

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