Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Zodiac House: Ox chapter

For those of you coming late to this party, I'm musing about writing this book and about children's books in particular, around different signs of the Chinese zodiac as I finish each corresponding chapter. Tonight it was the chapter of the Ox. The San Francisco Chinese Cultural Center page says, People born in the Year of the Ox are patient, speak little, and inspire confidence in others. They tend, however, to be eccentric, and bigoted, and they anger easily. They have fierce tempers and although they speak little, when they do they are quite eloquent. Ox people are mentally and physically alert. Generally easy-going, they can be remarkably stubborn, and they hate to fail or be opposed.


One hopes not to write a bigoted children's book. An angry, fierce children's book, though? Well...not this one. But I don't see anything wrong with it, quite frankly. A lot of children's books are gentle, and that's fine, even good. Sometimes it's a welcome break from adult and young adult novels, which can be a bit stormy by comparison. But I think that there's a place for a kids' book to get angry about things that are upsetting.

Also, I'm a bit bothered by the role of anger in children's books. I'm thinking back as far as Little Women, possibly further, and the emphasis seems to be on controlling one's temper to the point that any anger is bad. And I don't think that's so. I think it's disproportionate anger that's bad. Being mildly annoyed is not the worst sin ever, or to take a newer source than Little Women, anger does not necessarily lead to hate any more than fear leads to anger. Sometimes anger leads to action. Sometimes anger leads to change. Sometimes anger leads to self-defense. Sure, kids have to learn to handle it when they're angry, but that doesn't mean by squishing it down and never acknowledging that it exists -- or that it could actually have a valid root cause.

Too much anger in a kids' book is likely to be strident and unpleasant to read, and kids generally have the sense to reject things that are unpleasant to read if they possibly can. Sensibly so. But that doesn't mean all anger in children's books ought to be a party-line rubber-stamp of the "sit down and calm down" lessons Jo March and Anne Shirley get. Some things in the world require us to sit down and calm down. Others require us to stand up. If we don't admit to kids that the difference exists, they'll never learn how to apply it.

Ew, is this more of a theme in Girl Books? I begin to suspect that it is, but I'd welcome any data for or against that theory.

(Although with the Anne Shirley reference I don't want to be unfair to L.M. Montgomery -- Emily Starr's temper is often a good and self-defensive thing, and in fact I wish it showed up more often where appropriate. And it seems pretty clear that Valancy's taking too much of the "sit down and calm down" lessons to heart are at the root of her problems in The Blue Castle.)

As for the rest of the Ox description -- well, I hope this chapter inspires confidence in the rest of the book for me. That'd be nice. It was patient enough with me, a titch at a time until the thing was done. Good way to go, I guess.

Anyway. If my dog is to be believed, there is an ax-murderer/serial-rapist lurking on the doorstep, just waiting to batter the door down, but only if he/she has insufficient indication that there is a watch poodle within. For some reason asking her, "Dog, why are you psycho?" is not helping matters. Further steps seem required.
Tags: zodiac house
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