Every day this week, in honor of Banned Books Week, I will be posting a blurb about a book that has had an impact on me. Today’s book is Dragonsong, by Anne McCaffrey.
One of the enduring character archetypes of books for younger readers are spunky young heroines who escape the confines of a constricting life and get to a place where they are able/encouraged to flourish. For me, that heroine was Menolly, in Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsong.
I’ve talked before about how Dragonquest changed my life, by introducing me to McCaffrey’s Pern series and fostering a lifelong love of dragons and a determination to become a Writer. Dragonsong was the second Pern book I picked up, and though the main character didn’t become a dragonrider, she did find something more important to her: a place to express herself artistically. She also broke the glass ceiling in the process, because in Pern, women typically were only taught music as an elective, a trifle to while away their hours—assuming they were allowed to learn at all. But only men became Harpers.
It’s a systemic inequality that parallels similar structures in the real world. Through Menolly, we were allowed to imagine an alternative path to success: if we were brave, clever, willing to persevere and take risks.
My younger self probably wouldn’t have articulated it in this way. But Menolly went on an adventure to become a musician, and ended up with 9 pet mini-dragons along the way. What wasn’t to like??
She might not have picked up a sword and gone off to battle, but she taught us how to be brave for the sake of our art. And she also taught us to remember to be kind along the way.
It’s always important to be kind.