Fiction

I’ve never been the greatest fan of fiction, but lately some great fiction has sucked me in and now I’m a bigger fan that I used to be and like to always have some kind of quality fiction to read. My latest read was “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson. I really enjoyed this book because unlike certain fiction of the trashy quality such as “50 Shades of Grey” or “Twilight”, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was, in my opinion, a great read! (I know some of my readers may appreciate the other series I mentioned, the views expressed here are merely my own opinions).

There were many things that I appreciated about TGWTDT. The first was, unlike the other above-mentioned titles, the main character, Lisbeth Salander, is a strong woman who stands up for herself and works out her problems by herself. I don’t necessarily agree with her methods, although the scene where she tattooed her rapists belly was pretty funny. Lisbeth Salander isn’t the popular current image of womanhood. She’s unmarried, has a highly intellectual job, and is very much liberal in her beliefs and actions including, of course, her interesting piercings and tattoos.

However, the character of Lisbeth Salander is as much of a real woman as a conservative stay at home, home-schooling mom. We need more fiction with strong female characters, so that we can learn how strong we can be. The reason I don’t like books such as “50 Shades of Grey” or “Twilight” is because they teach women that being in an abusive relationship is normal, or even desirable. Of course, all these stories are just that…stories. The thing is that stories, particularly ones of such popularity as the ones mentioned here, become part of our culture, and our culture is part of who we are. We draw meaning and identity from our culture, which means that we need our culture to be informed by high quality fiction, movies, games, music, art, etc.

I’ve been taking part in some interesting conversations and interactions lately. I had a conversation last night with some great women I work with who differ completely from me in the way that they think, and a lot of it is influenced by their culture. The only problem is when they think that their culture is the only right way of life. Every culture, even every generation, does things a little differently and have both good and bad aspects. My children are being raised in a multicultural home but are living in the culture of the southern USA. I’m hoping that my children will glean the valuable things from both of the main cultures they are exposed to and influenced by.

If I had to choose, I’d rather have my daughter be like Lisbeth Salander than like Bella Swan. So I want to give my daughter access to literature that shows her how strong she is, how wonderful she is. I want my daughter to know that she needs to be in a relationship with a man who treats her well, not a man who abuses her. I want my daughter to know that she is fully capable of having a career in any field she chooses and that she is intelligent. I want her to know that whether she chooses to dress in conservative clothes and has pretty hair or whether she has her tongue pierced and a hundred tattoos, that she’s a beautiful woman worthy of respect because of who she is. And I want her to know that God loves her either way. 
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The Value of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

After finding it at Goodwill for less than a dollar, I decided that I was going to read “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” partly because I think it is the coolest book title ever, and partly because it’s a bestseller and I feel like as a writer I should read at least some of the bestsellers, and mostly because the book intrigues me, and appears like it might actually be an intellectual piece of work, you know, completely unlike “50 Shades of Grey”. I’m not sure in what universe “50 Shades of Grey” sounded like a good idea, but I think it is a sad social commentary that we actually happily consume such stories. However, I’m not writing this post to complain about “50 Shades of Grey” although I can’t pass up having a good jab at it when I get the opportunity. So far, I’ve only read the first few chapters, and the book has proven to be a fascinating read.

“However, it was not Lisbeth Salander’s astonishing lack of emotional involvement that most upset him. Milton’s image was one of conservative stability. Salander fitted into this picture about as well as a buffalo at a boat show. Armansky’s star researcher was a pale, anorexic young woman who had hair as short as a fuse, and a pierced nose and eyebrows. She had a wasp tattoo about an inch long on her neck, a tattooed loop around the biceps of her left arm and another around her left ankle. On those occasions when she had been wearing a tank top, Armansky also saw that she had a dragon tattoo on her left shoulder blade. She was a natural redhead, but she dyed her hair raven black. She looked as though she had just emerged from a week-long orgy with a gang of hard rockers.” Larsson, Steig “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, p. 38.

The story basically says that it was rather unusual that a woman like this would be working at a professional job, because she wasn’t very conservative. I have to wonder why people value conservatism so much. Rather than seeing the value in all people, we tend to write off some people as worse than others, sometimes based solely on appearances. Just last week, I showed up to work in a neon yellow lace top that had a black cami underneath, a long leather skirt, a leather vest, and black flats that had square silver studs on them. My hair was jet black fading into purple. Although I was the same person that I always am, someone decided that my outfit was “offensive” and that person complained to management. I was completely within my company’s dress code, and the manager even told me as much when she informed me that someone had been offended. I did have about five customers tell me how amazing they thought I looked, also. Anyway, my purpose is not to complain about someone choosing to take offense to an outfit of mine, my purpose is to say that you can’t tell what a person is really like just by looking at the way they present themselves.

I’ve heard the argument that if people respected themselves, they wouldn’t have certain piercings, or tattoos, etc. I don’t think it’s really about self-respect, I think it’s more about symbols and meanings and art. There are a lot of piercings and tattoos that I don’t care for, but there are also piercings that I like. I have three holes in each ear and intend to get a nose piercing eventually. I don’t mind the look of tongue piercings although I would never personally get one because it’s not worth it to me. I’m planning on getting a tattoo soon, and when I do I will most certainly post about it. However, this post isn’t about my piercing and tattoo preferences either.

What this post is about is about not judging the character of a person based on their external appearances. We shouldn’t assume that someone wouldn’t fit into a professional environment because of their tattoos and piercings, or because of the cut and color of their hair, or because of the style of clothing they wear. The fact that in the story “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Steig Larsson had to write that Lisbeth Salander was different and didn’t fit in shows the sad state of our society where appearances mean more than character. We all have our own preferences and our own prejudices, but for me I have been trying to put aside my prejudices and see through to who a person really is. I’m not perfect at it and I do judge based on appearances, and it should not be so. The value of a person is not determined by how they look, their value is that they are them.

I think that I will probably have more to say about this story as I progress through it, it appears as if the author was very savvy about culture and I look forward to digging further into this book.

Reference:

Larsson, S 2008, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Black Lizard, New York. 

Rachel Held Evans’ Year of Biblical Womanhood

I finally received my copy of “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” by Rachel Held Evans in the mail after months of the suspense of having it on pre-order. I can tell you that I prefer her first book “Evolving in Monkey Town” but “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” is a valuable read also.  My favorite chapters were “July: Justice” and “September: Grace”. To be honest, parts of the project seemed rather silly to me, but I do appreciate the overall idea that inspired the project and I do appreciate the many insights that I gleaned from the book.

I really appreciated the information about fair trade that was in the chapter on justice, and I believe that it is an important topic to talk about and am glad that it was included in this book. Imagine my horror when I learned that some of my favorite candy is made from cocoa beans that were produced through child slavery. I have mixed feelings on the fair trade issue. I would really love to buy fair trade products where they exist, but I wonder if, like boycotts, doing that really helps anything? But now I can’t eat a package of pretzel M&M’s without thinking about some kid in Africa in forced slavery on the cocoa farm.

So I wonder if the fair trade issue is really about wanting to make the world a better place by not consuming products that were made as a product of the exploitation of other people, or if it is just about making ourselves feel better about the exploitation of other people by assuming that because we choose not to consume such products, that we are somehow superior. If I buy everything fair trade, yet I don’t speak out about the exploitation of other human beings, am I really helping to change anything? Should I get involved in some kind of movement or just file the entire fair trade topic under the “social justice” file in my brain? I know that social movements can cause revolutions, and this is a topic worthy of being pursued as a social movement. I guess my thing is that I am wondering what it is that I am supposed to do with the information that I have been given. To pretend that I never learned such things would be a betrayal.

I have to say that I think the book is worth the money just for the social justice issues that it raises, because the issue of child slavery isn’t the only social justice issue that Evans talks about, and I believe that the church is lacking greatly in social justice issues (as the presidential election is showing us).

I also appreciated the arguments that Evans makes for the role of women in the church and their importance to the church. It is a sad thing that in this day and age, women are still being restricted in what they do for the church even though all throughout the Bible women worked in the same positions as men.

She begins the book with the “ten commandments of Biblical Womanhood” and ends with ten resolutions that she emerged from the project with. If Rachel Held Evans didn’t have a book deal, the project would still have been worth it for her personal growth and development by the things she learned and the resolutions that she made as a result.

I like how throughout the book, Evans shows how “Biblical Womanhood” as the fundamentalists choose to interpret it, is an impossible task, and even more, that we weren’t ever supposed to live like that. It was good to read about the valuable things that she learned during the project and the things that she was going to continue doing after the project was complete. Not everything about the notion of “Biblical Womanhood” is bad, it’s the concept that there is only one right way to please God as a woman that is the problem. I think that Evans represents the distinction between the two very well. While I prefer her first book, this one is a worthy read.