Thursday, February 14, 2019

"What Every Girl Should Know"

J. Albert Mann is the author of five novels for children. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Her new work of historical fiction about the early life of Margaret Sanger is What Every Girl Should Know. Born in New Jersey, Mann now lives in Boston with her children, cat, and husband listed in order of affection.

She applied the Page 69 Test to What Every Girl Should Know and reported the following:
On page 69 of What Every Girl Should Know, young Maggie Higgins (Sanger) is dealing with the aftermath of a boy’s first attentions. Following his profession of love—and her gentle rejection under the direction of her older sister, Nan—Maggie’s brother weighs in on the scene he’s just witnessed.
“I guess you’re not marrying Walter Kearney, Maggie.” John grinned. “Maybe he’ll ask Nan next.”
Which in turn presents Maggie with another first…the prospect of marriage. Always a looming presence in any 19th century young woman’s life.
“Marry?” I grunted. “Nan and I are never marrying anyone. I’m going to be a doctor, and Nan is going to be a writer.”

As soon as the words left my mouth, I wished I hadn’t said them. Nan and I might say it all the time. But we only said it when it was the two of us. We didn’t say it out in the general world. Not that Thomas and John were the world, but at the moment—in this moment—they felt like they were. And maybe they were, really. The world kept growing larger, and in comparison, I grew smaller.
Saying our dreams out loud for the first time can be scary. Especially for a 19th century young woman, where even having dreams seemed absurd. As page 69 continues, Maggie weighs her life options…
Miss Hayes rang her bell.

“All girls get married, Maggie,” John said, swinging the hair from his eyes. It was as if he was saying we all die, which we do all die, but first I wanted to live. It wasn’t that falling in love sounded fatal, it was what followed. I wasn’t ready to be someone’s rib yet—I’d barely used my own.

Miss Hayes rang her bell harder.

“Or teach.” He shrugged, glancing over at Miss Hayes.

We walked toward the schoolhouse. Nan and I lagged a few steps behind, like we didn’t want to be too close to them right now. Which, we didn’t. I wanted to apologize to Nan, but I wasn’t sure for what. I took a closer look at Miss Hayes as I passed her on my way inside. Could I be her? I glanced around the classroom. It was better than death, I guess.
Wife. Mother. Teacher. These were Sanger’s only options. And she didn’t like them much, as page 70…and the rest of history attests to.
Visit J. Albert Mann's website.

--Marshal Zeringue