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!