Warning: Never-ending wall of text. Also, Fangirl…

Warning: Never-ending wall of text. Also, Fangirl spoilers.




confession: i think having cath and wren’s mom leave on 9-11 (that 9-11) was a lazy way to really try to gut-punch the target audience.

her leaving on any day would have been devastating and horrible and traumatizing to cath, wren, and art, but putting it on 9-11 immediately makes everyone sympathize that much more with the scenario.

sub in any holiday and you get the same effect. it didn’t have to be 9-11 to get the point across…

Interesting point.

I do think it pays off with the inclusion of the lone plane in the sky in Cath’s original piece at the end of the book, though, don’t you? (We’ve gotten that far in reblogbookclub, right? I can talk about that now without spoiling most people?)

If it were a holiday, as you mention, what would you have used at the end of the book in place of that as a signifier that something is incredibly wrong and ultimately broken, not just in Cath’s home but also in her world?

Now that I’m finally caught up (shame on me!), I can properly respond to this!

I think you’re right, in that it ties into her original piece at the end (and someone else was right in saying that it was probably an easy way to explain why adults weren’t taking more/faster notice of their problems at the time), but you can make symbolism out of anything.

Say they had their huge fight on Christmas: The lights blinked on next door – then three houses down, then at the brick house with the pool, then where the red shutters clashed with the blue roof – every house in the neighborhood began to shine through the yelling, until theirs was the only house on the block that hadn’t turned their Christmas lights on yet.

Say it was Easter: Her sister stepped on another egg, crunching then squelching, as they somberly walked the yard, dutifully trying to collect green eggs that matched green grass. Hands clasped, neither could see their spoils through the yelling behind closed doors. Crunch. Squelch. She stepped on one this time, her sister squeezing her hand when she heard the soft sniffle that escaped.

It could have been Arbor Day: Lightning had struck the weeping willow – the one they’d planted three years ago almost to the day – the crack of branches sending them rushing down the dark hallway into the safe cover of their parents’ bed – there was enough room for the both of them to snuggle into dad’s side. In the morning, they found him on the couch, jumping on him when he hadn’t woken before their stomachs. Now, out on the porch and snuggled together once more, they listened to the thunder and lightning roll through their home and watched the broken branches sway in the breeze.

I pulled a Cath and just wrote downhill, but I think you get the idea here…

I don’t think the decision to have Laura leave shortly after 9/11 was arbitrary. I think it made sense in terms of her character. And I think the way Cath talks about the date, and about her mother’s leaving then, was not just a ploy for cheap sentiment. I think it reveals a lot about Cath and Laura, and does it in a way that another date would not have.

Unlike Cath (and unlike a lot of Fangirl’s readers, probably), I didn’t experience 9/11 as a child, but as an adult with children of my own. One of my memories of that day is of my 10-year-old daughter asking me why it was such a big deal that those buildings fell down. “Because,” I told her, “when they fell down they were full of people.” She hadn’t thought of that before I told her.

A child of that age (or the slightly younger age Cath would have been) is not responsible for processing an event like 9/11 in terms of its larger significance, at least not right away. For my daughter, as for Cath, 9/11 was something she experienced not in terms of tragic events playing out far away, but in terms of what was going on in her immediate vicinity: The adults in her life acting strangely, and the impact those actions had on her.

As an adult, and especially as a parent, the experience of 9/11 was very different. The need to deal with the event, to try to make sense of it and find an appropriate response, felt like an immediate, overwhelming imperative. How to explain what had happened to my child? How to keep her safe in a world newly revealed to contain such dangers?

When you first look at your child, there is a crushing sense of being ill-prepared for the responsibility. It’s not just an intellectual response. It’s a visceral gut reaction. This impossibly helpless, vulnerable, and precious thing is wholly dependent on you. There’s no backstop. There’s only you.

It’s terrifying.

The events of 9/11 dredged up all those feelings and amplified them. I don’t agree with the choice Laura made, but I sympathize with the feelings that drove her to make it. Her character seemed real to me in that moment, her decision to change her life by acting on the belief (long held) that she was not prepared to be a parent a believable one.

I think there may be a fundamental divide between those who experienced 9/11 as adults and those who experienced it as children. As a member of the first group, I would never think to mention it in the same breath as Christmas or Easter or Arbor Day. It’s not a holiday. It’s not an annual observance like those others. It was a singular event.

That we mark the day each year is a sign of our lingering need to try to make sense of it, because collectively we’re still traumatized. That people who were children on 9/11 might see it more as just another day that rolls around each year with its particular observances is actually kind of comforting. It reminds me that since they were children when it happened, they may have been insulated from some of its emotional effects.

The way Cath thinks about it is interesting:

Cath still found this incredibly embarrassing; it was like their mom was so self-centered, she couldn’t be trusted not to desecrate a national tragedy with her own issues.

That Cath spares no thought for the people who died that day, or for what Laura must have gone through to reach the decision she did, is a perfectly normal and age-appropriate response for an 8-year-old. It’s also understandable that as Cath grew into a teenager she developed a deep sense of betrayal and resentment over her abandonment. Her criticism of her mother in the passage above is ironic, though, because in a sense Cath is doing the same thing she accuses Laura of doing: being so self-centered as to elevate her personal issues above any appreciation of the larger significance of that day.

Her resentment of her mother is a burden Cath carries, one she’s not interested in leaving behind. Even as she learns to move beyond her other fears and blockages into adulthood, that one remains, largely unresolved. I think it’s interesting that Rainbow leaves Cath in that place, and that she commented recently on Tumblr that she doesn’t believe Cath ever does reconcile with Laura. In all three of Rainbow’s novels there’s a protagonist who has a problematic relationship with his or her mother. (It’s less-obvious in Attachments, but I think it’s there if you look for it.) For it to keep showing up makes me wonder if Rainbow is drawing on personal experience.

Regardless, the relationships Rainbow writes between her protagonists and their mothers ring true to me, and I thought the use of 9/11 as the instigating event in Fangirl made a lot of sense.

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/63178910896.

Tags: rainbow rowell, fangirl, reblogbookclub.

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