Tags: american girl

writing

Fic: Perfection Salad

evelyn_b took me up on my offer to write fic in exchange for ACLU donations. She started of with the suggestion of writing a Molly McIntire fic - Molly McIntire is the World War II girl from American Girl - and then I realized that I have consumed approximately nine thousand canons set in the mid-twentieth century, AND THEN I realized that one of those canons is the television show Poirot, (which incidentally I finished watching this weekend. Did not expect that ending!), so of course I had to write a crossover.

Fic: Perfection Salad
Fandoms: American Girl - Molly/Agatha Christy's Poirot (TV)
Rating: G
Summary: Hercule Poirot comes to the McIntire's house for dinner.


The fic for ACLU donations offer still open, btw. Writing this has rekindled my long-dormant desire to write fic for all the American Girl series - or at least for all the ones that came out when I was young: Felicity, Josefina, Kirsten, Addy, Samantha, Kit, Molly. (Of the girls who came out later, I'm also awfully fond of Caroline Abbott, Rebecca Rubin - OH MY GOD I COULD WRITE AN ALL-OF-A-KIND FAMILY CROSSOVER, SOMEBODY STOP ME - and Julie Albright.)

Think of the other gloriously bizarre crossovers we could create together! Kit Kittredge interviews Peggy Carter, y/y?

...Also I would totally write non-American Girl things, that's just what's on my mind at the moment.

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writing

Writing For Great Justice

I have been feeling despondent about the news, as indeed who has not, and then I had a brainstorm of a way I could raise some money for the ACLU: writing ficlets.

So! If anyone is interested. Make a $10+ donation to the ACLU and message me your receipt with two or three prompts, and I will write you a 500-1000 word ficlet. (If I get inspired it may get longer, but don’t count on it.)

…Also I realize that I have described all of these fandoms in terms of their anti-fascist bona fides, but you don’t have to request something fascist-fighting themes, like seriously, ask for Steve and Bucky cuddling or Kit Kittredge and Ruthie Smithers having wheelchair races in their nursing home or whatever your little heart desires.

Fandoms I Will Write

Captain America. It will probably be Reciprocity-ish, because that’s just how my brain works. Steve! Bucky! Natasha! Sam!

American Girl. I have read every single American Girl series, and I was going to list the ones I thought particularly relevant to the current situation – Molly, because fighting fascism; Rebecca, because she’s Jewish and she has refugee relatives – but honestly I think any of the series are relevant; the American Girl books are (however imperfectly) about inclusion and freedom and girls being awesome.

Code Name Verity. More fighting against fascists! Also TRAGEDY. Also flying.

Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small. I don’t think Tortall has fascists exactly, but if they did you know Keladry of Mindelan would be in the front lines to stop them.

I will also consider origfic prompts if you have a yen for that, although I think it’s harder to make origfic satisfying at such a short length. But we’ll see!

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books

Meet Melody

American Girl has a new series out, Melody Ellison in 1964 Detroit, which I read with some trepidation because I was so very disappointed last year by their 1950s series about Maryellen.

But fortunately, the Melody books a good deal better than the Maryellen books, anyway, not least because the Melody books were clearly conceived as two books, not six books that were then awkwardly glued together in two with no craft or artistry. (Yes, I'm bitter.)

And, because the Melody books take place during the Civil Rights Era (and because Melody is black), unlike the Maryellen books they actually make use of the historical conflicts of their era. In fact, when I was first reading them, I found it a little ham-fisted - everything in Melody's life ties back into the Civil Rights movement, everything, and it would have been nice if she had at least one conflict that was basically small and personal, like Addy during the Civil War trying to learn double Dutch.

But after Trump's election - well, being ham-fisted about a message like "stand up for the things you believe in and make your voice heard" is hardly the worst thing that a book could do.

It still has no illustrations, though. I think I have mentioned this in every single thing I've written about American Girl ever since their horrifying decision to cut the illustrations, but IT IS SO HORRIFYING, OKAY, I just can't get over it.

Ugh, though, and these books could have had such good illustrations. Melody plants a goddamn garden! WITH HOLLYHOCKS, who doesn't want some gorgeous hollyhock illustrations??? And there's also a great scene where she gets a beautiful cream-colored coat for her birthday, which is clearly designed to move doll coats, and wouldn't it sell even MORE doll coats if the eight-year-olds of America could see the coat in the book and covet it from that moment? If American Girl won't do it for the sheer joy of having beautiful illustrations, they ought to do it for the marketing opportunity.

***

I will say, though, if you want to read a recent children's book about the civil rights struggle - or just read a really good book in general - I would recommend Jacqueline Woodson's Brown Girl Dreaming. It's both more politically engaged/radical than the Melody books, and includes a nice smattering of subplots that don't revolve around politics, which makes the heroine and her world feel more well-rounded and alive.
books

Wednesday Reading Meme

What I’ve Just Finished Reading

No Ordinary Sound, which is the first book (of two) in the newest American Girl series, Melody Ellison in 1964. I’m going to write about it at more length once I’ve finished the series; for now I will just note that it’s better than the Maryellen books (although that doesn’t say much), but there are still no illustrations, which is a goddamn tragedy. There’s a scene in this book where Melody’s older sister walks down the stairs, dressed all in orange, to reveal her new Afro to the family! Does that not cry out for illustration???

What I’m Reading Now

I’m working on Madeleine L’Engle’s memoir A Circle of Quiet, which Netgalley had for some reason - I guess it must be a reprint? Anyway, I’m enjoying it so far; it reminds me in its meditativeness of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea.

What I Plan to Read Next

littlerhymes and I have agreed to give the Billabong books a go, so we’ll be reading A Little Bush Maid. I could only get a smattering of them free on Kindle, so I’ll be reading the ones I have - A Little Bush Maid, Mates at Billabong, Captain Jim and Back to Billabong - so we’ll see how that goes.
books

Wednesday Reading Meme

What I’ve Just Finished Reading

Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, which might also be called “the book where Philip Marlowe never gets paid.” People keep offering him money, practically shoving it in his hands to make him take it, and he refuses and refuses and refuses, because… Well, it’s not quite clear why he does, which is part of what makes him so interesting to me. The books are in the first person, but nonetheless Marlowe is an incredibly opaque character. It’s not clear why he refuses the money or why he goes to such lengths to help out Terry Lennox.

It’s not even clear why he’s a detective. He doesn’t seem to get much joy out of it. Is it just inertia? This is the job he knows so he keeps doing it? There’s a nub of nobility left in his character, but given his absolute cynicism about the rest of the world, it’s hard to see how he hangs onto there. Maybe he knows he would collapse into existential despair if he couldn’t even believe in himself.

Or maybe it’s just sheer ornery cussedness. There’s a definite pattern where Marlowe makes his life harder because he’s decided he doesn’t like somebody’s face and refuses to cooperate.

I also finished Enid Bagnold’s A Diary without Dates, about her work in a hospital during World War I - well, sort of; there is at least as much nature description as there is description of hospital work. It all feels very dreamlike, and in the end that made it feel rather insubstantial to me, although very poetic.

What I’m Reading Now

I’ve started A. S. Byatt’s Possession! I’ve actually been getting through it at a fairly decent clip so far, probably because I read the first few chapters before, months ago. I think Roland and his girlfriend Val are both quite tired of each other, without either one wanting to be the one who initiates the break-up. They go on living together out of a painful combination of poverty and inertia and exhaustion. What’s the point of breaking up if there’s nothing better out there?

...I am placing my bets on Roland falling for Maud, his new clandestine research partner. But Roland won’t be the one to initiate the break-up; Val will leave him for one of the men she does typing for, a small apologetic angry smile on her lips as she tells him that she’s going and implies it’s all his fault.

What I Plan to Read Next

I am still waiting for the library to get the new American Girl book, No Ordinary Sound. It’s been out for like four months now! Why doesn’t the library have it?

Maybe the library is waiting for the second book to be released in order to buy them together. Never Stop Singing is coming out in late June, so hopefully that means the library will have both books soon?
books

Wednesday Reading Meme

What I’ve Just Finished Reading

I finished Eva Ibbotson’s Madensky Square, and I enjoyed it so much that I nearly flung myself headlong into The Star of Kazan, which is the other Ibbotson book that I own, but then I decided to restrain myself and save The Star of Kazan for the next time I need a feel-good book. Most of Ibbotson’s books are quite reliable for that (except maybe The Morning Gift).

I highly recommend Madensky Square for the parts about creation, the description of Vienna, the musings on sadness and mortality and getting on with life (there’s a lot of sadness in it for such a happy book; but on balance it is a very happy book), and also because Ibbotson has the rare gift for writing child characters just as well in adult fiction as in her children’s books. They always feel like real people, not child-macguffins.

What I’m Reading Now

I’ve begun Louisa May Alcott’s Hospital Sketches, a short book about her experiences as a nurse during the Civil War. The first quarter of it (and it’s not a very long book) is entirely taken up with her voyage to the hospital; I am thinking that perhaps it won’t have as many nursing details as I hoped.

Oh, and my hold on Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On FINALLY came in! I’m enjoying it so far, although it’s really surprisingly bleak - or maybe I shouldn’t say surprisingly. It’s riffing off Harry Potter, and it just brings the bleakness that’s mostly hidden by whimsy and sense of wonder in Harry Potter right up to the surface.

(I used to think that J. K. Rowling created the Wizarding World without realizing how astonishingly dark it was beneath the jokey exterior, but now that I’ve read her adult detective novels I’ve decided that she probably knew exactly what she was doing.)

I think I’m going to write a longer review once I’ve finished reading; Carry On is doing some interesting things in its riff off of Harry Potter’s world-building (in particular, I think it’s responding to a lot of criticisms of the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), and I’ll be able to articulate it better once I’m through.

What I Plan to Read Next

I also have Louisa May Alcott’s Moods on my Kindle, so I may read that once I’ve finished Hospital Sketches. Or maybe Elizabeth Stuart Phelps’ Gypsy’s Cousin Joy, which is a children’s book published about the same time as Little Women?

OH OH OH, also American Girl has a new historical character out! I feel leery, given how disappointing I found their last new series (Maryellen the 50s girl, who totally deserved better!), but this one is about the Civil Rights struggle in the sixties so I am cautiously optimistic that it might be good. At very least, it won’t be able to totally ignore the hard parts of history the way the Maryellen books did.

BUT THE LIBRARY DOESN’T HAVE IT YET, WOE. So I guess I won’t be reading it for a while.
books

Wednesday Reading Meme

What I’ve Just Finished Reading

I finished the second Maryellen book, which, probably because my expectations had dropped about about negative two, seemed more enjoyable than the first one. But I still deplore their decision to cram six books into two (and it feels really, really obvious that these were originally intended to be six books; each book has three separate, consecutive, poorly integrated arcs) and not to have any illustrations, because come on, illustrations are what American Girl is all about!

Do you think they cut out the illustrations in the re-releases, too? They’ve released the other American Girl books in this horrible three-books-in-one format. I’m almost afraid to look. I hope parents complain to the skies and the company hastily backtracks.

What I’m Reading Now

Still Miss Marjoribanks. I’ve been reading it on my Kindle at work (I find that it makes work much nicer when I have a fun book to look forward to at lunch), and I've had a cold and therefore spent my work breaks staring bleakly out the window and coughing pathetically, so I haven't made much progress in this.

But today I felt a bit more energetic and read some more. Lucilla's hapless cousin attempted to propose to her! And now we are on the cusp of Lucilla's first Evening. The expectation hangs thick in the air.

What I Plan to Read Next

Elizabeth Wein's Black Dove, White Raven.
books

Wednesday Reading Meme

What I've Just Finished Reading

Maryellen: The One and Only, the first book of the new American Girl series, which never did transcend its lack of illustrations, alas. The illustrations aren't the only change they made with the format this time around: there are also only two books instead of six, which might have worked better if the first book didn't feel like three books smooshed together with no attempt to make an overarching plot.

Even that might have worked all right if they had at least labeled the separate pieces Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. But they didn't, so instead I was just puzzled by the jumps between chapters when one story ended and another began.

I feel like the shoddy construction is of a piece with a general shoddiness in the book's writing, too. The characters don't have much pop to them; I never did manage to tell all of Maryellen's brothers and sisters apart, for instance. It's all rather disappointing.

I also finished Eugenia Ginzburg's Journey into the Whirlwind, which turns out (I can't believe I didn't notice this before) to be only the first half of her memoirs, so I will have to tromp off to the university library to acquire the second half. I have rather a list, actually, of books that I mean to check out there; I'm finally going to get around to reading Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, and Oliver Sacks' continual mentions of A. R. Luria in his books have convinced me that I ought to read some of Luria's work, too.

What I'm Reading Now

Margaret Oliphant's Miss Marjoribanks, which I'm enjoying so far, though it could do with slightly less repetition. I can see why Miss Marjoribanks herself informs everyone she meets that her only object in life is to be a comfort to her dear papa (otherwise they might suspect her of overweening social ambitions), but must the narrator repeat it too? I got the joke the first dozen times it was told.

What I Plan to Read Next

I'll probably read the second Maryellen book, if only in the interests of completeness. I was so looking forward to these: it's such a disappointment.
kitty, Agents of SHIELD

American Girls: Maryellen

I have acquired the first of the new American Girl series from the library! The first of...two books, because they'd decided to move away from the six book pattern for some reason.

"Okay, self," I said consolingly. "This is not the end of the world. There are legitimate reasons why they could cut down from six books to two, and at least it looks like the two books are longer books so we won't necessarily be getting less story, and anyway the illustrations..."

And then I flipped through the book.

The illustrations appear to be nonexistent.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO what even is American Girl without illustrations??? WHAT HAVE THEY DONE? WHAT IS THIS MONSTROSITY! WHAT IS THIS MADNESS! EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE.

...I'll let you know how the actual story is once I've read the book, but for now I am registering FIRM DISAPPROVAL.
books

Wednesday Reading Meme

What I've Just Finished Reading

Lauren Esker's Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, which is a shifter romance (werewolves and weresheep, in this case), and very cute, although probably moreso if the tropes of shifter romance are your thing. Unfortunately the tropes that the genre focuses on seem to be the ones that don't do much for me, but that is a problem with the reader rather than the book.

What I'm Reading Now

Eugenia Ginzburg's Journey into the Whirlwind, yet another book about Stalin's purges and the gulag. I am getting a little gulag'ed out at this point, but I've been meaning to read this book for forever, so I will persevere. I'm going to take a break from the Terror after this, though.

What I Plan to Read Next

Still waiting for the library to get me a copy of the first Maryellen book. I am pining to read the latest American Girl series, library! Work with me here!

I'm also going to read Margaret Oliphant's Miss Marjoribanks. In fact I had it all queued up on my Kindle to start reading on my lunch break at work today, but then I forgot my Kindle at home. :(

On the bright side, I had lunch at Panera, and they have my favorite turkey cranberry flatbread again (it seems to be an autumn special!), so that was nice. And they have a new turkey, apple, and cheddar sandwich, which also looks intriguing, although I feel a bit dubious about the cranberry walnut bread that it comes on, although I'm not sure why, because it sounds like something I ought to like. I mean, it has cranberries in it, right? But the bread may not be sweet enough to mesh nicely with the sweet dried fruit.