by Mary Curran Hackett, debut author of Proof of Heaven
If you’re the only person who hasn’t heard about, read, or seen The Hunger Games then it’s safe to say you live under a rock—or probably more rightly—you don’t live with a teenage girl. If you haven’t, don’t feel badly. I am usually that “one person” (hyperbole, I’m aware) who is usually living under said rock, too. (In fact, I am notoriously late to every party—Mad Men, for example, I only just started watching. Downton Abby. Ditto. Thank God for Netflix.) But, thanks to my daughter, Brigid, I was swept up into The Hunger Games mania early on and so, like hundreds of other moms, I was at the movie theater at 9 a.m. on the day of its release—along with a theater FULL of girls.
And yes, while the movie was exhilarating and didn’t disappoint readers and fans alike, that’s not what I was thinking about when I left the theater. As my daughter talked 100 mph without, it seemed, inhaling once, about the actors’ portrayal of the characters, the interpretation of the setting, scenes, and sanitization of the violence, and of course, Katniss and Peeta’s self-sacrifice and determination—I wanted to shout out to her: “YOU GO, GIRL! YOU GO! Get excited about books! Get excited about seeing your books on the big screen! Get amped up when talking about character development and setting. You are every author’s dream, hon! An engaged, enthusiastic, passionate FAN.” As both a writer and her mother, I wanted to hug her. (But she’s a teen girl. So I knew better to wait until we were out of eyeshot of the hundreds of other girls, who wouldn’t be caught dead hugging their own moms.)
Through the entire drive home, I couldn’t help but think that my daughter, her friends, and all girls like her are the future of the reading world. They will be reading our adult fiction books five and ten years from now! It’s not very long at all. (They may even be reading our books now for all we know. I’ve seen my daughter with books I’ve only just heard about—and she and her friends were some of my first readers of my own novel Proof of Heaven.) Needless to say, they are an eager and hungry group, and there are soooo many of them. Best of all, they are a loyal, tweeting, networking lot at that. I don’t remember having the collective reading experience that my daughter has had. When I was a kid, we didn’t read long trilogies or series together and wait endlessly to see our favorite heroine to hit the big screen. In fact outside of Disney princesses, I don’t remember many female heroines at all in my favorite books or movies (leave out the obvious exceptions—Nancy Drew, Laura Ingalls, and Elizabeth Bennett). And we certainly didn’t tweet or blog or even find out about books the way girls do now. Long story, short: If these girls are the future of the reading world, our future as women writers is a bright one.
What our girls read, how often they do, and how they extrapolate meaning and context and apply it to their own lives is nothing less than, well, extraordinary. My daughter’s generation was the generation born into a Harry Potter World. The first books she first read were by strong, determined, and innovative women. J.K. Rowling’s genius dominated my daughter’s young reading life, as did a quick succession of female writers whose books my daughter devoured daily. Brigid’s world has been filled with women authors writing about strong female characters—who are capable of doing so much even against so much adversity—like Suzanne Collins’ Katniss in The Hunger Games. And thanks to these formidable women writers and their memorable characters, our girls have been trained, in a way, to seek female writers with strong female leads out. If you don’t believe me, believe the ratings. The Hunger Games debuted as the third highest grossing film of all time on day one of its release. Thank you, girls. And thank you, Suzanne Collins, for creating such a memorable female lead. You, and all female writers like you, have blazed a wonderful trail for the rest of us. (Ahh, if only Mary Ann Evans could see us now! I doubt she’d ever want to change her name to George Eliot to sell a book!)
I guess without even realizing it, I’ve been thinking a lot about woman writers lately. Maybe it’s because I’ll be participating in Fifth Annual SWAN DAY International, celebrating women in the arts all over the world this coming Saturday, March 31st. On this day, we’re supposed to pause and reflect on what is women’s role in the arts now and in the future. I’ve paused. I’ve reflected, and I can safely say, as they do in The Hunger Games (sort of)…I think the odds are forever in our favor, ladies.
Mary Curran Hackett is married and the mother of two children. She received an MA in English Literature from the University of Nebraska and a BA from the University Honors Program at Catholic University in Washington, DC. Born and raised in Danbury, CT, she has traveled extensively and lived in various places throughout the U.S., but her favorite place in the world is home with her kids, husband, and her stacks of books. Like her character Colm Magee, Mary suffers various heart and brain ailments, but thanks in part to her brother, a physician, as well as her own doctors, she now has a pacemaker and a heart that beats on its own at least most of the time. PROOF OF HEAVEN is her first novel.