Sunday, August 26, 2012

"Ten Girls to Watch"

Charity Shumway received an MFA in Creative Writing from Oregon State University and a BA in English from Harvard University. After graduate school, she spent nine months reporting on the 50th anniversary of Glamour’s "Top Ten College Women" contest. Her writing has appeared in Glamour, Ladies Home Journal, Fitness, and Garden Design, and her short fiction has been honored by Glimmer Train and Slice magazine, among others. She lives with her husband in Brooklyn, New York.

Shumway applied the Page 69 Test to Ten Girls to Watch, her new, debut novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 is actually one of my favorite pages in the whole book! In Ten Girls to Watch, Dawn’s job is to track down all the women who’ve won Charm Magazine’s “Ten Girls to Watch” contest over the past 50 years. Between each chapter, a “historical” magazine profile appears, complete with a photo. Page 69 is the profile of a winner named Jean Danton. I read dozens of 1960s women’s magazines and tried my best to match the slightly flowery overdone tone:
Jean Danton, Radcliffe College, 1960
The Elegant Orientalist

A true world traveler, Jean has visited more than 30 countries. Growing up in Hong Kong helped (her father is in international business). A political science major, she has a keen interest in international relations. This summer, she will study painting and language in France. Free-time pursuits: art, poetry, and sewing. “I was wholly unprepared for Massachusetts weather.” She quickly adapted, sewing herself an enviable collection of conservative wool dresses and tweedy British jackets, spiced with Oriental silks and real jewelry. In sum, her style is both artistic and mature. Above all, Jean impresses with a real womanliness —at 20, she seems truly wise beyond her years.
I love the photo of “Jean.” I tracked it down scrolling through microfilm of old Mademoiselle’s in the periodicals archive at the New York Public Library. (My huge thanks go to Conde Nast for granting me permission to use this and many of the other images in the book). Our gal is wearing a plaid skirt suit, gloves, and a fabulous little hat. She’s even standing in front of a bridge over the Charles River -- perfect for Radcliffe. I wrote the text before I found the image, and I was thrilled to find a photo that matched so well.

In the chapter that follows, Dawn finds Jean and catches up on the last forty odd years. Turns out Jean spent years and years stationed in Russia (then the USSR) with her husband and children. At first she hated it and wanted to get back to East Asia, but they just couldn’t seem to get away. Finally, she gave in and learned Russian, and once back in the U.S., devoted herself to translating Russian poets, female Russian poets under Stalin in particular. “What you grow to love...,” she tells Dawn. “That might be one of life’s biggest surprises.”
Learn more about the book and author at Charity Shumway's website.

My Book, The Movie: Ten Girls to Watch.

--Marshal Zeringue