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I, Shannon


am in a book store to

promote the latest instalment in the chapter book series “The Princess in Black”. A woman asks, “So when are you going to write a series like this for boys?” I say, “These books are for boys and girls. For anyone who likes to read about a monsterbattling hero.” The woman looks sceptical. She is certain no boy would be caught dead reading a book about a girl, let alone a princess. Then a school librarian introduces me before I give an assembly. “Girls, you’re in for a real treat. You will love Shannon Hale’s books. Boys, I expect you to behave anyway.” At a book signing, a mother looks sadly at my books. “I wish I could buy some for my kids, but I only have boys.” A little boy points to one of my books and exclaims, “I want that one.” His father pulls him away. “No, that’s a girl book.” What this says to me is clear; our culture assumes:

1. Boys are not going to like a book whose main character is a girl. 2. Men’s stories are universal, while women’s stories are only for girls. After all, books about boys, “Harry Potter”, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”, “Holes” are for everyone, but books about girls, Judy Blume’s novels, “Anne of Green Gables", “Twilight", are just for girls. I wasn’t always sure this assumption was incorrect. Early in my career, I was publicised as “The author of Princess Academy,” my most well-known book. Predictably, only girls and their mothers attended my signings, with just a few brothers lurking in the back or the occasional forward-thinking home-schooled guy. But after my book won a major award, teachers began reading it to their classes. Dozens of teachers reported to me the same thing: “When I told the class we were going to read a book called ‘Princess Academy,’ the girls went ‘Yay!’ and the boys went ‘Boo!’ But after we’d read it, the boys liked it as much or even more than the girls.”

Profile for ElectricPress

Electric Press - literary insights magazine. May 2019 edition.