Sunday, November 2, 2008

Walk Two Moons ya ya

Walk Two Moons is a freaking sad book. This Newberry winner by Sharon Creech is about the main character, Salamanca's journey from Ohio to her mother's grave in Lewiston, Idaho, and her experience moving with her father to a new town after her mother's death.

I really think Creech is an incredible writer and that she tells women's complex stories in a simple sort of way. Both of the mother figures in the story leave a husband and kid/s to go heal, and both of the situations point to the intense pressure that patriarchy creates in their lives. Sal's mother leaves their farm after a miscarriage to go visit a cousin via bus, and dies when the bus veers off a cliff. Her mother struggled with a sense of inadequacy within Sal's fathers eccentric and generous family. Sal's connection to her mother and her mother's struggle is really personal to me, because her mom didn't struggle economically or in any way that was visible to the outside world and because she felt so isolated even with her daughter and husband.

When Sal encounters Phoebe's family, she is especially in tune to Phoebe's mother, 'Mrs. Winterbottom.' The two daughters are extremely critical and Mr. Winterbottom is really unresponsive to the tremendous work and emotional energy that the mom puts into the family.
Sal is like a certified feminist in interpreting the family situation and the huge sadness that weighs on Mrs. Winterbottom but is so invisible to her family. Eventually Mrs. Winterbottom leaves home without any explanation and eventually Phoebe and Sal discover that she is spending time with her college-age son who she had out of wedlock and has never discussed in their family.

Creech writes Sal with some traditionally feminine traits and some traits that are often associated with masculinity. Also, she uses some of the traditionally more masculine traits to paint Sal as more grounded in her native Indian heritage...for example:
When Sal's classmate Phoebe says "You are brave. You are" Sal responds, "I was not. I, Salamanca Tree Hiddle was afraid of lots and lots of things...But I was not afraid of spiders, snakes, and wasps. Phoebe, and everyone else in my class, did not have much fondness for these creatures." She then describes how she gently carried a black spider from her desk to the school window to the amazement of her classmates.
I think passages like this are really neat in that they establish Salamanca's traits without a discussion of bravery being feminine or masculine....But is there implied that since Sal is brave around scary creatures, which is generally considered masculine, and is obviously presented as a positive trait, that Salamanca is a stronger, better character/person because she has boyish traits?
Not that bravery is actually boyish, just that she played against the stereotypes in her classroom and in our society...

This book is really beautiful and naturally sparks discussion on struggles in women's lives. I recommend it as a book to read with little sisters for sure.

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