Saturday, December 5, 2020

Six Degrees of Separation - from Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret to Winter Shadows

It’s time for #6degrees, inspired by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. We all start at the same place as other readers, add six books, and see where you end up.   This month’s starting point is Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (1970), which I read like every girl of my generation although I wouldn’t say I loved it as so many did.  However, it definitely filled a need then and now; in addition, I bet you didn’t know that Judy Blume is a big Betsy-Tacy fan!  

Troubled teens lead me to my first book, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1963).  I think you could say without exaggeration that Plath was the “It” girl and that was an “It” book for my mother’s generation.  Sylvia’s work was published fairly regularly from the time she was 8, and young women aspiring to be writers were aware of her brilliance when she was chosen to be a guest editor one summer at Mademoiselle magazine, if not before. She grew up in Massachusetts (not far from where I live) and attended Smith College, excelling academically wherever she was.  One can’t help wondering if the treatment available now for mental illness would have changed/preserved her life.    

Black Ice by Lorene Cary (1991), my second book, is about another high achiever, an American teen’s culture shock and experience as the second African-American girl at Phillips Exeter, a newly-coed, elite boarding school in New Hampshire. 

My third book is also a coming of age story by an African American author, Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson (2016) (my review).  For those unfamiliar with Woodson, she is a New York Times bestselling author who has won every honor available from the National Book award, Hans Christian Andersen and Astrid Lindgren awards, a Newbery Honor, the Coretta Scott King award, to the MacArthur genius award in October.  
Across the river from Brooklyn is my fourth book, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez (1991).  The book consists of short stories told from the perspectives of four sisters who came from the Dominican Republic with their parents, settling in New York, but miss their own country and have challenges adapting to life as poor immigrants.  
The closeness and squabbles of the Garcia sisters reminded me of my fifth book, My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (2011), about the friendship and rivalries between two girls/women, beginning in 1950s Naples.  It surprised me how many people became obsessed by this four-book series.   I didn’t even like the first one, although my mother and several friends read all four obsessively.
My sixth book - and final coming of age story - is Winter Shadows by Margaret Buffie, a beautifully written story about two young women connected through time by a diary in a stone house, from present-day Manitoba to the mid-19th century, as both experience difficult family situations and adolescence.  See, you don’t have to have sisters or a best friend if you can timeslip when needed!  This is a beautifully written and evocative YA book (my review).

So my Six Degrees took me from an imaginary New Jersey suburb to Boston, New Hampshire, Brooklyn, New York (and the Dominican Republic), Naples, and back across the ocean to Canada.  Have you read any of these?  Will you go see the Are You There, God? movie?

Next month (January 2, 2021) Kate has chosen Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell as our starting point.  I've been meaning to read this but I am 338 on the reserve list at the library!  


Davida Chazan (The Chocolate Lady) said...

Oh, they're making a film out of Are You There God? I didn't know! You've got some really interesting books here, none of which I've read or heard of, to be honest.

Mary @ Notes in the Margin said...

I, too, didn't know about a film version of Are You There, God? Thanks for this chain of interesting books.

Theresa Smith Writes said...

I really enjoyed your chain! I love it how you tell us bits about the author, the place, the culture, etc. with each of your links. Thanks!

Linda, Shoe's Seeds and Stories said...

I did read "My Brilliant Friend", but I found it challenging, and I gave up on the second one in the series. Great chain!

Josie Holford said...

Great chain! Only read the first three though.

vicky blake said...

I'm with your mother and her friends! I love Elena Ferrante but they are quite a feverish read and if that's not your thing I can imagine them being irritating.

Lexlingua said...

Have only read Bell Jar from this list but the one about the Garcia Girls looks interesting. And, of course, have heard of the show about My Brilliant Friend, which I haven't seen yet but intend to someday. Happy #6Degrees
~Six Degrees Post @Lexlingua

Anne@HeadFullofBooks said...

I followed your leaps from book to book. What a fun exercise. I'd be honored if you'd take a look. My 6-Degrees chain

Jack Deighton said...

I thought The Bell Jar was well written and, given its subject matter, surprisingly eaasy to read. And yes, it's a pity that the methods used to treat her mental state back then did her no favours.
The only other of these six books I have read is the first in Elena Ferrante's quartet which I too did not like. Despite my better judgement I did though embark on the second in the series and found it much better. I've not read any further so far but plan to start the third soon.

cathepsut said...

I haven‘t red any of these books. I didn’t know about the movie, either. I am not really a fan of coming of age stories. Surprisingly my chain consisted of five books for young adults. Fantasy though.

Donna said...

I did not like My Brilliant Friend at all, and did not read the others. The world described was absolutely brutish, I thought, and too much for me to spend any time in. The last book on your list, set in Manitoba, I actually read because I saw it on one of your best winter read lists! I'd never heard of it, though I'm Canadian. How did you?

CLM said...

I don't think I would be interested in seeing the AYTGIMM movie but I can see it might be empowering for preteens. I'm not really a fan of coming of age books either, at least not when the author pushes the theme too aggressively, if that makes sense. But there sure are a lot of them and they can be well done. This Wikipedia definition is interesting - I don't think they have to be set in the past:

In genre studies, a coming-of-age story is a genre of literature, film, and video that focuses on the growth of a protagonist from youth to adulthood ("coming of age"). Coming-of-age stories tend to emphasize dialogue or internal monologue over action, and are often set in the past.

Donna, I don't remember how I heard about Winter Shadows but I must have come across a review online because I do remember thinking it was unlikely my library system would have purchased a Tundra book (respected publisher but not well known in US), yet there it was in the online card catalog. I am sending you a recommendation for Another Shore by Nancy Bond which I can't remember if we have discussed. By the way, that is exactly how I felt about My Brilliant Friend - why inflict such a depressing setting on myself?