Many of the books in the Novel Conversations collection share a common theme – the experience of growing up. This month, we look at coming of age for girls, whether near or far in time and place.
A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter – Published in 1909 and set in northeastern Indiana, this novel tells the story of Elnora Comstock, a rural high school student. Though neglected and disrespected by her no-nonsense mother, Elnora is resourceful, ambitious, intelligent and virtuous, truly a classic heroine. Like the author, she is a naturalist, well versed in the creatures of the Limberlost swamp. For Elnora, finding love and success despite her poverty is a timeless dilemma in an old-fashioned setting.
A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel – Zippy is quite a character, with a wry and humorous way of looking at her exasperating family. “My mom was a person who had some ideas, and she’d been having them for a long time,” she remarks, even as plans are being hatched. A memoir that reads like a novel, this book reflects the small town Indiana that many Novel Conversations readers remember and enjoying discussing.
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman – While it’s beginning to seem like every girl’s story could be summed as “the trouble with parents,” Cecilia “CeeCee” Honeycutt has bigger problems than most. Her mother is mentally disturbed, her father is absent and she is only twelve. Fate brings her a fairy godmother in the form of her great aunt, Tootie Caldwell, who transports CeeCee to her home in Savannah and introduces her to gracious living, Southern-style. Both sad and light-hearted, this novel has been popular with book clubs.
Where We Belong by Emily Giffin – When Kirby Rose turns 18, she is finally able to solve the mystery of her life, the identity of her birth mother. Despite a good but routine life with her adoptive parents in St. Louis, she wants to meet the woman who gave her up as a baby. Marian, however, turns out to be a New York television producer, launching Kirby into a new and glamorous world. Just starting out on her adult life, she has to cope with a complete change of circumstances and relationships.
Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood by Fatima Mernissi – It has been said that every book is a new journey, but some take us very far away indeed. Through this memoir set in Morocco, the author recalls a life of severe restrictions, sometimes transcended by the imaginative ways women create to overcome the barriers around them. The book was chosen for the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Bridging Cultures Bookshelf, Muslim Journeys.
This post was written by Nancy Conner, director of grants at Indiana Humanities and coordinator of Novel Conversations.