Miranda’s Story

I remember there was a period of time – around 1970?? – all the girls were reading Harriet the Spy – I can’t remember if the librarian read some of it to us… it wasn’t BIG like Harry Potter or anything, but it was one of those books that all the girls  at least “knew about”.
I wasn’t a big reader as a kid, but I really liked the illustrations in HTS, and illustrations were always important to me.  I loved the way Harriet looked.

What was so important to me was my identification with Harriet.

So much of the time, I indentified with male characters – both in books and on TV.  I wasn’t confused about my gender, but I just didn’t “get” female characters – they were not a reflection of who I felt I was.  They didn’t look like me, they didn’t dress like me, and they certainly didn’t act like me.

I can remember vividly, looking at pictures of Pipi Longstockings, who I adored and admired, and trying to figure out how I could “look like” her – while at the same time, knowing it was hopeless.

Harriet was different – although her life circumstances weren’t like mine, she was like me – it was really kind of amazing.  I could absolutely identify with her character, her interests, her concerns, her inner dialogue, her desires…  she was very real to me, I loved her, and I wanted to be like her.

HTS reflected contemporary, urban life.  The kids in the book (especially Harriet) were deep, thoughtful, and very independant.  What was really fabulous was that Harriet created her own adventures right where she lived – in her own city and neighbourhood, out of the stuff of her own life.  She didn’t have to go “someplace else” – either magically or geographic – to have an amazing time; she used her own skills and initiative and observation and imagination to have it right where she lived.

The book made us believe that we could do exactly the same thing, /wherever/ we were.  We didn’t have to be in New York with Harriet – that was never the point of the book.  The point was that wherever you are, it’s exciting.

The book also was very powerful in that it gave kids – girls especially – an example of “safe” disobedience – Harriet was kind and decent, but she intentionally and knowingly did things she wasn’t supposed to do.

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2 Responses to Miranda’s Story

  1. Juliet says:

    Miss Woodward, my favourite ever Language Arts teacher, read it to our class– was that our split 4/5 or 5/6? I remember her saying that she had to get special permission from the principal, because it was controversial (not her exact words, but that was the essence of it). She reported back that the principal had read it and approved (imagine if he hadn’t!) and we were set to go. Within one or two chapters I had gone to the library, taken it out, and read the entire thing; I then became very annoying in class during the reading time by saying things like “This is such a funny part!” and then starting to take notes in class while Miss Woodward read to us. I loved her. I remember her having a blonde beehive and wearing pink miniskirts, but I may have imagined that.

  2. Juliet says:

    Ah, perhaps I didn’t make it up. The saintly JW, me, and Miranda, at Irwin Park Elementary many, many years ago. : http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=5030877046&set=o.2214511949

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