I've been intrigued by Justina Chen Headley's post about Stephenie Meyer's writing. How Stephenie is beloved, an amazing contributor of YA lit, and that she ought not say that she is a storyteller rather than a writer. Yet, how does one withstand the verbal hit by a writing legend such as Stephen King?
With those thoughts popping around in my mind, I was assigning my daughter her reading in the college curriculum American History, a Survey by Alan Brinkley.
There's a section concerning sentimental novels. This quote by Nathaniel Hawthorne stopped me:
"and I should have no chance of success while the public taste is occupied with their trash."
Nathaniel was complaining about middle class, female-generated fiction of the mid-nineteenth century. Here was a selection of work giving voice to female hopes and anxieties. Many were romances, while others dealt with social injustices and urged reform. This was a time in which women were new consumers in the growing industrial economy.
And who was the most famous sentimental novelist of the time? Harriet Beecher Stowe, known for her 1852 antislavery novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin. Alan Brinkley calls the work, "one of the most influential books ever published in America."
When Abraham Lincoln met Harriet, he said, "So you are the little lady that has brought about this great war."
Maybe Nathaniel didn't respect Harriet's work, but it still stands. It spurred national change. Stephen King claimed, "Stephenie Meyer can't write worth a darn," he said. "She's not very good." Not that different than Nathaniel's sentiments: "America is now wholly given over to a damned mob of scribbling women."
We women will continue to exercise our voices through the written word and our novel purchases. We will publish alongside amazing male writers. And we will all instigate change in one heart or many.
Here's to Stephenie Meyer who has encouraged literacy across the world with a story we can delight in. Brava!