Five Variations of Jane Austen’s Persuasion

Persuasion, by Jane Austen, revolves around Anne Elliot, the only sensible living member of the Elliots of Kellynch Hall, a family struggling to finance their exorbitant lifestyle in 19th Century England. Anne’s evolution from a persuadable, cautious youth to a mature romantic has inspired scores of modern retellings, five of which I discuss here.

In these reimagined versions of Persuasion, each modern author highlights some aspects of Austen’s original while omitting others. It’s risky to deviate from a beloved classic. What do you keep? Why? What new elements do you introduce? No retelling can ever live up to the original, but, hopefully, it will remind readers of what they love about the original while introducing them to something new and worth reading for its own merits.

These are the Persuasion adaptations I read this month (listed in chronological order by year of publication):

In this modern tale, Anne Elliot is Annie Markham, the daughter of a rude and egotistical businessman who desperately needs a management consultant to stay afloat. That consultant turns out to be Annie’s ex-boyfriend, Jake Mead. Their relationship broke apart so viciously that I almost didn’t want them to get back together, but the pair manages to overcome their differences and live happily ever after.

This modern adaptation of Persuasion stars Anna Elliot, a professor in England who broke Rick Wentworth’s heart when she pursued a degree in Russian at Oxford instead of running off with him. I’ll be honest that I would’ve made the same choice as Anna―call me a “hopeless academic” 😉 ―but I was definitely rooting for Anna and Rick the second time around.

In this post-apocalyptic retelling Persuasion, Anne Elliot is Elliot North, the daughter of a wasteful “Luddite.” The Luddites own the estates on which the “Posts” and the “Reduced” live and work as servants. Elliot falls in love with Kai, a “Post” servant, but their young relationship is doomed. Years later, Kai returns with a new name, Captain Malakai Wentforth, and a new purpose: challenging the social order. This novel borrows heavily from Persuasion, but its setting and additional themes make it a refreshing homage to Austen’s classic novel.

Set in Old Lyme, Connecticut, this modern adaptation of Persuasion emphasizes the romantic elements of Austen’s original―focusing on Hanna Elliot and Derick Wentworth’s second chance at love―while downplaying other themes of Austen’s work, such as the Elliot family’s tenuous financial circumstances. In fact, Hanna isn’t even related to the Sir Walter-based character in this retelling, and she has only one sister, Mary. Overall, it’s a clean romance that lovers of Austen’s original tale are likely to enjoy.

While I was on the subject of Persuasion retellings, I decided to read my own adaptation for the first time since I published it in 2015. Enough time has passed since I wrote it that it actually felt somewhat new (and I no longer felt the urge to edit it!). This story takes place in my hometown just outside of Philadelphia, where the Elkins family lives on a crumbling 34-acre estate (based on a real place). After the matriarch dies under suspicious circumstances, the family turns to the civil court system to seek justice for her death. Their lawyer is Amelia’s ex, a man with no intention of rekindling his romance with the woman who broke his heart, especially if doing so could amount to an ethical violation. After all, lawyers aren’t supposed to date their clients.

~

You’d think reading a series of novels, back-to-back, all based on the same classic source would get “old” eventually, but I guess I haven’t hit my limit of Persuasion spin-offs yet. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Thanks!

*I wrote this post as part of Austen in August, a reading event hosted by Adam at Roof Beam Reader. Check out the master post for more information.

 

Childfree Aunts, Irish Americans, & The Last Little Blue Envelope

Ginny Blackstone has horrific taste in men.

She’s the 18-year-old main character of the Little Blue Envelope series by Maureen Johnson. I wonder if I would’ve felt differently about her taste if I’d read this set of novels when I was closer to Ginny’s age. My taste in partners isn’t much different today, though. I’m married to the person I started dating a week after I turned 19.

Anyway, apart from an unwelcome cameo in the first book, I enjoyed this mildly entertaining set of novels about a recently deceased aunt who leads her niece on a European adventure through a series of letters. It was a nice summer read that doesn’t fire up too many brain cells (in other words, it’s a vacation). That said, it did get me thinking about two articles I read earlier this year:

  1. Honoring the Childfree Auntie (Ms. blog)

The nicest part about the Little Blue Envelope series is that it features a close relationship between an aunt and her niece, a relationship I rarely come across in fiction, but one that my children are lucky enough to have in real life with my sisters (one who has a child of her own and one who doesn’t). Research shows that my children are among many who benefit from these types of relationships:

A survey of 1,000 non-mothers inspired by Savvy Auntie Melanie Notkin found that children play an active role in the lives of 80 percent of women who don’t have children of their own. Another study found that it’s common for aunts to spend money on the children in their lives and assist kids’ parents financially.

For more information, see the link in the heading. These women certainly deserve our gratitude. [Thanks, sisters! Love you.]

  1. The Fading of the Green: Fewer Americans Identify as Irish (Pew Research Center)

In the second book in the series, The Last Little Blue Envelope, one of Ginny’s poor romantic options cannot believe she doesn’t know what a bodhrán is, insisting, “Come on. You knew that. You’re Irish. All Americans are Irish.”

Obviously, all Americans are not of Irish descent, and I’m sure this character knows that. He’s just being annoying, as is his way. However, his statement reminded me of a Pew study that shows that the percentage of Americans who trace their ancestry to Ireland is slowly declining.

I look South Asian, thanks to my Sri Lankan mom, but I have Irish ancestry on my Dad’s side. That’s how my daughters have red hair, just like Anusha, the star of our Anne of Green Gables-inspired novel, Anusha of Prospect Corner.

An Unwelcome Cameo in My Comfort Reading

I picked up Maureen Johnson’s 13 Little Blue Envelopes, a young adult novel published in 2005, because it looked like a relatively light read at a time when I want my reading to counter the overwhelming sense of doom I feel every time I think about reality. 2017 blows, a virtually ubiquitous feeling the publishing industry is trying to capitalize off of by churning out “Up Lit.” According to The Guardian:

In contrast with the “grip lit” thrillers that were the market leaders until recently, more and more bookbuyers are seeking out novels and nonfiction that is optimistic rather than feelgood. And an appetite for everyday heroism, human connection and love – rather than romance – is expected to be keeping booksellers and publishers uplifted, too.

Johnson’s novel isn’t a new publication, but I’d say it’s the kind of upbeat read many of us are looking for these days. It takes grim circumstances, the recent death of 17-year-old Ginny Blackstone’s aunt, and turns it into a mildly entertaining story that takes our main character from the United States to several European countries.

The novel starts with a letter to Ginny from her Aunt Peg, asking to play one final game, a scavenger hunt. So far, so good.

However, a few pages later, in a section about Aunt Peg’s background, this happens:

[Aunt Peg] answered phones as a temp at Trump headquarters until she happened to take a call from Donald himself. She thought it was one of her actor friends pretending to be Donald Trump–so she immediately launched into a tirade on ‘scumbag capitalists with bad toupees.’

I read fiction to escape from this man. What the hell is he doing in this book? I don’t want to see any references to him, not even negative ones, in my comfort reading.

But I continued to read the book, doing by my best to ignore a later reference to someone eating steak with ketchup, an unusual combination that just happens to be Trump’s favorite meal.

Overall, I enjoyed 13 Little Blue Envelopes for its scenery, the descriptions of each of the places Ginny visits. For example:

Travestere couldn’t be a real place. It looked like Disney had attacked a corner of Rome with leftover pastel paint and created the coziest, most picturesque neighborhood ever. It seemed to consist entirely of nooks. There were shutters on the windows, overflowing window boxes, hand-lettered signs that were fading perfectly. There were wash lines hung from building to building, draped with white sheets and shirts. All around her were people with cameras, photographing the wash.

Ginny would never have seen Travestere if it weren’t for Aunt Peg’s decision to coax her out of her shell. Ginny doesn’t have much of a personality. It’s her aunt who fuels this story by controlling her niece’s life for a couple of weeks from beyond the grave. At times, I found myself irritated by Aunt Peg’s demands, particularly the ones that placed Ginny in unsafe situations, but I tried not to dwell on it too much. I don’t want to dwell on anything too much these days. That’s the only way to get through the next few years.

Jane Austen & The “Angel of Death”

Jane Austen died on July 18, 1817 at the age of 41.

Death lurks on the pages of her Regency era novels — Persuasion, for example, would have been a different story had Lady Elliot and/or her son survived — but it stays in the background, playing a relatively minor role considering the morbid reality of the time. According to Austen scholar Fiona Stafford, as quoted from Jane Austen: A Brief Life in the New York Times (In Jane Austen’s Pages, Death Has No Dominion by Radhika Jones):

By 1817, [Austen] had seen the lives of two first cousins, three sisters-in-law, her sister’s fiancé and her cousin’s husband all cut short. She had lost her father and mourned the deaths of aunts and friends. Her letters are scattered with references to stillbirths and miscarriages, to mothers who died in labor and to infants who succumbed soon afterwards.

Two hundred years ago, average life expectancy in England and Wales was only around age 36 or 37. See Robert Wood, The Effects of Population Redistribution on the Level of Mortality in Nineteenth-Century England and Wales (1985). I don’t know what the average life expectancy was for women of Jane Austen’s socioeconomic class in her region, but I think it’s fair to say that her lifespan of 41 years was hardly unusual for the time.

However, there is evidence to suggest that Austen’s genes and environment held the potential for longevity. As Oxford professor Helena Kelly notes in Jane Austen, the Secret Radical, Austen’s father lived into his 70s, her mother lived to 87, her sister Cassandra lived to 72, and her brother Frank lived to 91, a ripe old age even by our modern standards.

In her book, Kelly describes the day Austen died, writing in Chapter 8:

Dr. Lyford was sent for. He “applied something to give her ease” –almost certainly a substantial dose of laudanum…

At half past four in the morning of Friday, July 18, she died.

She was, it’s fairly clear, killed with kindness. A dose of opiates strong enough to knock her out completely for nine hours has to have at least hastened her death… We may have to consider the—frankly horrifying—possibility that Jane’s illness wouldn’t, on its own, have proved fatal, or not so soon, that it might have been the drugs, and only the drugs, that killed her.

I’ve read a number of theories about the cause of Austen’s death, including Addison’s disease, tuberculosis, lymphoma, and arsenic poisoning, but this portrayal of Austen’s doctor as an “angel of death” is new to me.

It’s plausible that Austen’s medical treatment could have hastened her death — after all that still happens today, resulting in lawsuits like the one against a medical device company at the heart of Amelia Elkins Elkins (a modern take on Persuasion) — but I wouldn’t say it’s “fairly clear,” as Kelly does. Austen’s health had been in decline before she received her final dose of Dr. Lyford’s medication.

Whatever the cause of Austen’s death, whether premature by the standards of her time or not, it’s too bad she didn’t live longer. We can only imagine what else she would’ve contributed to our literary world. As Geoff at The Oddness of Moving Things writes:

I mean she was writing a book, Sandition, near her death with a MIXED RACE character. How would she have finished it? How would it have been accepted? Kelly showed how saucy (to use Austen’s own words) Austen was, how far would she have taken it if she wrote for another 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years?

I wish we knew.

Voting & Incarceration: “The More Things Change, The More They Remain The Same.”

Last week, I wrote about Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, et al., a voting rights case the U. S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear. They will decide whether federal law allows Ohio to penalize infrequent voters by purging them from the voter rolls.

In a comment to that post, Melanie from Grab the Lapels wrote: “I would love to read a blog post from you about voting and the prison population. I’m not sure I understand what rights inmates have/don’t have and why.”

So, Melanie, this post is for you!

The voting rights of felons and ex-felons varies by state, so I turned to The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) for their summary of state laws. They said:

State approaches to felon disenfranchisement vary tremendously. In Maine and Vermont, felons never lose their right to vote, even while they are incarcerated. In Florida, Iowa and Virginia, felons and ex-felons permanently lose their right to vote. Virginia and Florida have supplementary programs which facilitate gubernatorial pardons. The remaining states each have their own approaches to the issue.

[Check out NCSL’s chart for more information, linked above]

About six million Americans are not allowed to vote because of a felony conviction. This type of disenfranchisement stems from an archaic concept we inherited from Europe known as “civil death,” the idea that the government should punish people for their crimes by denying them the right to ever fully participate in society again.

Our modern laws have largely departed from this overly harsh concept of punishment, except in certain circumstances, such as the voting rights of felons and ex-felons.

The states that treat individuals convicted of felonies the worst when it comes to voting have more racial diversity than the states that treat them the best. The only two states that do not disenfranchise felons are Vermont and Maine, racially homogeneous places where well over 90% of the population is white. Racial and ethnic minorities are overrepresented in the prison populations in these states, but the vast majority of inmates are white (see VT’s prison profile here, and see ME’s prison profile here).

When I saw these demographics, I thought about the recently released Urban Institute Study that found that “States with larger African American populations, all else equal, have less generous and more restrictive TANF [Welfare] policies.” As the authors explained:

If voters or policymakers perceive people receiving welfare as different from themselves, they may believe that welfare dependency is caused more by personal shortcomings than by circumstances beyond one’s control.

A similar bias may be at work when it comes to voting rights. In racially homogeneous states, the general population and lawmakers are more likely to identify with prison inmates, making them both less likely to see individuals with criminal histories as unredeemable and less likely to feel threatened by maintaining their right to vote.

Laws prohibiting felons from voting have a discriminatory effect on racial minorities, whose right to vote, once finally guaranteed by the Constitution, has been long subjected to discriminatory suppression efforts. [And let’s not forget the ways our criminal justice system is biased against racial minorities; see the comments below]

In The New Jim Crow,* in which Michelle Alexander argues that we have redesigned America’s Jim Crow racial caste system through mass incarceration, we meet Jarvious Cotton, a man who cannot vote:

Like his father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather, he has been denied the right to participate in our electoral democracy. Cotton’s family tree tells the story of several generations of black men who were born in the United States but who were denied the most basic freedom that democracy promises–the freedom to vote for those who will make the rules and laws that govern one’s life. Cotton’s great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Ku Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation. His father was barred from voting by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Jarvious Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole.

Mr. Cotton was one of the plaintiffs in Cotton v. Fordice, 157 F.3d 388 (5th Cir. 1998),** which held that:

Although it appears that the constitutional disqualifying provision [prohibiting the vote] originally intended to discriminate against black felons, its recent re-enactment by the people of Mississippi has not been shown to bear that taint.

The opinion, written by Judge Edith H. Jones (who is still on the Court), is truly incomprehensible. Not only is it hard to believe the court would describe a reenactment from 1968 as ‘“recent” in a 1998 opinion, but its reasoning is also hard to accept:

The state defendants do not dispute that § 241 was enacted in a [sic] era when southern states discriminated against blacks by disenfranchising convicts for crimes that, it was thought, were committed primarily by blacks…

[However,] Section 241, as enacted in 1890, was amended in 1950, removing ‘burglary’ from the list of disenfranchising crimes. Then, in 1968, the state broadened the provision by adding ‘murder’ and ‘rape’–crimes historically excluded from the list because they were not considered “black” crimes. Amending § 241 was a deliberative process.

…Because Mississippi’s procedure resulted both in 1950 and in 1968 in a re-enactment of § 241, each amendment superseded the previous provision and removed the discriminatory taint associated with the original version.

(Emphasis added).

So, basically, in the court’s opinion, 1950s and ‘60s Mississippi was a post-racial utopia, despite the countless murders of African Americans and civil rights workers in that state, including Medgar Evers in 1963 and James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner in 1964. I’m also shocked the court would believe that racists in 1950 and 1968 didn’t wrongly consider rape a crime committed predominately by black people. So-called “protection” of white women from black men was the stated reason for numerous lynchings and prosecutions in the south, such as the murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi in 1955 and the prosecution of the Scottsboro Boys in 1930s Alabama. It’s also the basis of the fictional legal case at the heart of the 1961 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.

The Cotton opinion is now two decades old, but it still stands, as does Richardson v. Ramirez, 418 U.S. 24 (1974), in which the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of laws prohibiting felons from voting.

It’s time for our courts to revisit this issue, though I’m not so sure they would come to a different conclusion. As Michelle Alexander says in The New Jim Crow, the disenfranchisement of felons exemplifies the old saying that “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”

______________________

*See also, Confronting My Own Bias About The New Jim Crow.

**Mr. Cotton’s appeal was dismissed before reaching the appellate court, so the Cotton opinion is about another plaintiff in that case, Keith Brown, who was serving a sentence for armed robbery in Mississippi and wanted to vote.

Impeachment: A Complicated Solution to a Dangerous Presidential Problem

The constant flow of information about Donald Trump’s scandalous and dysfunctional administration has intensified the calls to remove him from office.

But what is the impeachment process, and what will it take to use it against Trump effectively? The process stems from provisions in our Constitution that have long baffled scholars, jurists, and lawmakers:

Article I:

Section 2: The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

Section 3: The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

Article II:

Section 4: The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

(emphasis added).

Much of the controversy around impeachment surrounds the meaning of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” What actions qualify? The answer might be as simple as, “whatever Congress thinks qualifies.” Given how the House has “sole Power of Impeachment” and the Senate has “sole Power to try all Impeachments,” it seems likely that, under most theories of Constitutional law and the separation of powers, the Supreme Court would have no say in deciding if a particular “high crime” or “misdemeanor” was sufficient for impeachment and removal.

The House of Representatives has impeached two presidents, but the Senate convicted neither of them. Still, those experiences, plus the impeachment proceedings of a number of other elected officials, give us an idea of what the process entails.

To impeach a president, the process begins in the House of Representatives after a simple majority approves the charges against the President (known as the Articles of Impeachment). Then the Senate holds a trial, over which the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides. Two-thirds of the Senate must vote to convict and remove the President from office.

Impeached ThumbnailSo far, the Senate has never voted to convict an impeached President, but it came close to doing so in 1868, when Andrew Johnson kept his office by one vote. To learn more about what happened, I read Impeached: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy by David O. Stewart.

Andrew Johnson became President after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, a few weeks before the official end of the bloody Civil War. Republicans added Johnson to Lincoln’s presidential ticket as a symbolic gesture, hoping a Tennessean would show that they were not only a party of the North.

However, as Stewart explains:

Elected on the Republican ticket, Johnson longed to cut himself free from that party. He did not share its principles, its goals, or its brief history.

Johnson sounds like Donald Trump, the nominal head of a party he barely belongs to. Trump and Johnson have so much in common that many portions of Stewart’s book felt as though they could have been about Mr. Trump if we changed the dates and replaced names with “the President,” “Department official” and “Congressman.” For example:

  • “Quickly, the audience could tell that something was wrong.  [The President’s] face glowed a luminous red. His sentences were incomplete, not connected to each other.”
  • “[The President] had misplayed his hand. Rather than acting the statesman who wished to unify the nation, he behaved like a political brawler with a grandiose self-image.”
  • “[T]he president’s provocative and racist rhetoric failed to unite Republicans against him.”
  • “[The] vindictive spirit blinded [the President] to the damage he was doing to his own cause.”
  • And, as Carl Schurz remembered about Johnson in 1907: “There was a widespread feeling among well-meaning and sober people that the country was really in some sort of peril, and that it would be a good thing to get rid of that dangerous man in the presidential chair.”

There are also differences between Johnson and Trump, one being that Johnson was a hard worker (while Trump spends more time playing golf than any President in recent memory) and Congressional Republicans were ultimately more apt to counter the President in Andrew Johnson’s time than the current version of that party is willing to do today.

With Johnson, Republicans like Thaddeus Stevens laid the groundwork for his impeachment for years, failing multiple times to get a majority in the House to approve the Articles of Impeachment. The charges were “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which required something more than simply being “unfit” for the presidency. It helped the impeachment effort when Johnson violated the Tenure of Office Act by replacing the Secretary of War. Republicans in the House then approved, finally, the Articles of Impeachment, but the Senate did not convict, falling short of the required two-thirds by one vote.

It remains to be seen whether Donald Trump will be the first U. S. President to be convicted and removed from office. So far, the GOP’s Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have shown nothing but tacit approval of Mr. Trump’s misdeeds that, at best, show him to be unfit for the presidency and, at worse, raise the specter of treason.

We’re still uncovering the facts, but these disturbing actions (among others) could underscore the case for impeachment against Trump (& the list grows daily! This post was written in May 2017):

  • Trump allegedly demanded “loyalty” from FBI Director James Comey, and then fired him amid the FBI’s ongoing investigation of Trump’s connections with Russia, a country that interfered in our election to benefit him. The stated reason for Comey’s firing—that it was based on Comey’s mishandling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server—is laughable coming from a man who gleefully encouraged his supporters to chant “Lock her up” during his campaign. So, it’s pretext, and the question is whether it’s obstruction of justice, an impeachable “high crime and misdemeanor.”
  • To make matters even more deplorable, we have just learned that Trump allegedly asked Comey to end the investigation into Michael Flynn’s connections and communications with Russia. (And now, Jason Chaffetz, the Chair of the House Oversight Committee, has sent a letter to the FBI requesting Comey documents).
  • Then there’s the allegation that Trump disclosed classified information to Russian officials, which looks treasonous on the surface, but does not meet the Constitution’s narrow definition of “treason.” Nevertheless, the flippant disclosure of highly sensitive and important information could support impeachment, particularly when coupled with other reckless acts.
  • And let’s not forget the evidence that Trump and his associates may have violated the emoluments clause of Article I of the Constitution, which prohibits public officials from taking something of value from foreign governments. The question is whether the benefits Trump has allegedly received from foreign governments amount to accepting bribes (a separate impeachable offense) or whether it’s corruption qualifying as a “high crime and misdemeanor.” See The Emoluments Clause: Its Text, Meaning, and Application to Donald J. Trump.

The American People deserve to know the facts surrounding these serious allegations. We need Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and their colleagues to finally stand up to Donald Trump. Our democracy remains at risk until either our Republican-led Congress prioritizes the good of the country over its loyalty to Trump or the American people vote them out of office.

*Image: Impeachment In A Horn (1868), https://www.loc.gov/item/2007680124/

“I Hate Seeing You Walk”: Thoughts on A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman

Teenager Veda Venkat, the star of Padma Venkatraman’s A Time to Dance, believes she excels at only one thing: Bharatanatyam dance. The rhythmic beats of this classical Indian dance speak a magical language to her, changing the way she sees herself. As she explains:

my graceful movements make up for

my incorrectly proportioned face.

I can dance beauty into my body.

Dancing defines Veda to such a degree that when an accident takes away her leg below her knee, it threatens to take away her identity too. A Time to Dance is a lyrical novel, written in verse, that describes the poignant process of healing after a profound loss.

I do not know what it is like to lose a limb, an aspect of the novel that is not #ownvoices, but Veda’s feelings felt realistic to me and even somewhat familiar based on losses I’ve experienced in my life. Veda experiences a range of feelings, from grief to jealousy, as she reestablishes herself as a dancer despite the physical changes she has endured.

She says to her best friend, for example, “I hate seeing you walk.”

This line reminded me of how much I hated the sight of pregnant women after my twin pregnancy ended at 26 weeks, leaving my daughters struggling for their lives in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for 78 days. It made me feel like a monster to hate looking at pregnant women, but I couldn’t help it. Those feelings only intensified when my next pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage, making me believe my body was irrevocably broken. My final pregnancy ended well over a month early, and my daughter spent a few days in the NICU. It was a better result than we’d ever had before, but still far from what I had hoped.

I hadn’t realized the degree to which I had absorbed my culture’s emphasis on female reproductive capacity–the terribly harmful and inaccurate belief that a woman’s role is to have children–until I just couldn’t achieve it the “right” way. I wondered what was wrong with me.

Those feelings of inadequacy have dissipated, thanks to time and the fact that my three children are now healthy. Looking at my twins now, you’d never know how fragile they once were. As a result, I am in a position to appreciate the silver linings of my family’s tumultuous beginning, and I even look back on our time in the NICU fondly (see Rosy Retrospection & #ReadingEmily). I’ve come a long way since those harrowing days beside my children’s incubators, watching their heart rates fall.

In A Time to Dance, Veda ends up in a similar place, feeling stronger as a result of her loss. To find out how she gets there, please read the book. I highly recommend it.

A Time to Dance is ideal for readers of middle grade and young adult fiction. One of my nine-year-old twins read it four times in a row because she loved it so much.

 

*Recommended by the Huntress of Diverse Books. Thanks, Sinead.