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as others see us

Writers so often work in a vacuum. Until an agent or a friend, a publisher or a reader, say something, there's no sense of sense or nonsense. Self-confidence, at least in this corner, tends to shrink as the work grows and the days stretch out without any outside comment. And then, sometimes, the view from out there is surprising. A language arts teacher, for instance, ties my "Sarah's Daughter" to "Tom Sawyer" because of the growing-up theme and the underlying explication of society's morality in both books. She also taught SD in conjunction with "the Diary of Anne Frank," focusing again on "the growing-up thing," as she put it and showing how Anne and Rose have a lot in common. "They are good beyond recognition by the standards of today's reader (my students)," she writes, "yet question their own goodness over and over. Anne writes about how she uses a fake exterior to hide her inner sadness and confusion and Rose does that too." For her seventh graders, this teacher compares the two girls also in terms of their guilt over their struggles with their relationships with parents.
It's extraordinary to think that what I wrote in my cellar office has emerged for several groups of 13-year-olds as a way to understand an era in which the nation was moving from an agrarian society to a more industrialized one and that the messages about women's rights and women as virtual prisoners in their homes surface as a fairly subtle byproduct of the central story. Rather incredible to see Rose through someone else's brain and eyes.
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