Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I've packed my paperback copy of Sally Watson's book "Jade" to take to work today.

It's for Kraiger to give to his 9-year-old daughter.

I was about 9 when I read this book and I loved it. I used to check it out over and over from the library, devouring it and imagining being the heroine.

Jade is a teenager in colonial Virginia. She is rebellious and refuses to live by society's repressive rules for girls. She ends up becoming a pirate and joining the ship of famous female pirates Anne Bonney and Mary Read. This was utterly believable to me at the time. Of course a young girl would be a fencing expert, join the pirates, and only fight to free slaves. What could be more credible than that? And what a great fantasy for a 9-year-old girl!

Reading it now, I have to laugh at Jade's sneering at boys and her brash attitude. "He was a boy, and of the ruling class and race, and everything was to his advantage. Oh, I hate men!"

This made perfect sense to 9-year-old Marie, who had no trouble at all envisioning herself fighting slavers with a pirate sword.

I'm sure it will make sense to Kraiger's kid too.


Steven R. Stahl said...

The bits of info about Sally Watson and her heroine, Jade, were interesting, and the potential feminist subtext in JADE was interesting enough to cause me to plan to contrast the feminism in JADE with the sexism, both overt and ingrained, in a comic book series annual that came out last week. Unfortunately, easily accessible online material about JADE and any feminism found therein isn’t to be found. There were some enthusiastic comments about the book on, but such comments aren’t much good for a think piece. So. . .

It would be nice to discuss sexism in (superhero) comics with people who are knowledgeable about the subject. As an element in comics decades ago, the sexism was irritating, but could be minimized in stories written by people determined to make their women real characters, in a literary sense. The current trend toward making stories “grim and gritty,” without making the characters’ overall environment more realistic, or reducing the sexism, can produce very ugly material.

It’s definitely possible to systematically rationalize a comics universe in ways that would make the universe quite hospitable to SF writers and other writers who just wanted to tell stories, not pastiches of movies or blatant attempts to pander to sexist impulses. It would be nice if there were comic book equivalents of Jade. Alas.


Marie Javins said...

Jade is first an action-adventure story, so little Marie didn't even notice the "ruling race and class" fury. Anyway, she was right. This was a time of slavery and aristocracy. It's easy to see Jade was right.

I am unfortunately so swamped in my day job that I haven't really had time to initiate new projects. But it would be great to take inspiration from Sally Watson and set strong adventure-fantasy examples for little girls in the Gulf and North Africa. I need to keep that in mind as we plan.