Saturday, December 17, 2011
Homecoming by Cynthia Voight
Read December, 2011
Review summary: the orphan narrative boosts self-esteem
These days, it seems like all little girls want to be princesses. I blame Disney, because it seemed to start when they began putting out good princess movies: The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin (Jasmine), etc. But when I was a kid, it was all about orphans. Annie, the Boxcar Children, etc. It seemed like a kid's greatest fantasy was to be destitute and wild, homeless and free.
Homecoming was written in that era, and it's a prime example of what's so alluring about being orphaned. Dicey is 13, the oldest of four kids who are abandoned by their mother at the beginning of the story. Almost at once, Dicey takes responsibility for her siblings and leads them on a journey that takes the whole summer to find a new home with a relative they never met. It's an adventure story, for sure, but the adventure is cloaked in Dicey's struggle to satisfy their most basic needs of food and shelter.
So why is the orphan narrative so appealing? I read an article recently whose premise was that parents today are too protective of their children. Parents want to be their kids' best friends, and kids feel smothered. The article suggests that kids have their happiest moments when they're allowed to be independent or wild, playing outside the box and solving problems on their own. I think the orphan narrative is appealing for precisely that reason: when a reader puts herself in Dicey's shoes, she feels like she can be smart, resourceful, and independent, and even a little wild.