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How we talk to ourselves, The Little Bride, and strange facts

February 1, 2012

Yesterday, I told my creative writing students to close their eyes and listen to how they talk to themselves. Do they use pronouns? Or, do they use imperatives? Most of them said they dropped pronouns, that they said things like, “Time to get up.” or “Don’t eat so much.” But they also used “You” to scold themselves, as though they were speaking to a child, “Why did you do that?” or “Why are you so lazy?”

This all came about because we are reading Anna Solomon’s The Little Bride which begins without any pronouns, as though the character is talking to herself. I loved this book — its language, its strangeness, its capturing of place and character — when I first read it, but now that I am teaching it, I am struck by how skillful it is, how Anna puts us into the mind of her main character, Minna, right away. My students like Minna. And they like the book because of the strange things they are learning: Minna is in the middle of being examined by a team of doctors and nurses — a “Look” – to see if she qualifies for immigration to America as a bride. This gave me the opportunity to point out that readers like to learn new things, that even in fiction, research is a great tool, and that it is a good idea to collect strange information.

For example, did you know that during World War II, the English considered “poisoning” Hitler with estrogen? I might have already written about this, but I can’t get over the idea of estrogen as a weapon. They thought it would weaken him, lessen his aggression, make him more “feminine.”

4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 1, 2012 10:38 am

    Perhaps that is why my fifth grade writing (?) students don’t seem to know any pronouns!!!!

  2. February 1, 2012 11:28 am

    What a terrific post. It brings back the pleasures of The Little Bride and especially those shocking and exquisite early scenes. It also fulfills an odd assignment: to begin a thought with a Russian girl preparing for life in the midwest – and end with estrogen and Hitler.

  3. February 1, 2012 12:32 pm

    Heather, go find The Little Bride and read it!

  4. February 2, 2012 3:12 pm

    Thank you, Charlotte! And thank you, Carolyn, for the thought (story?) you tell in your comment. Charlotte, of course half these choices (about pronouns, etc.) I’m only half aware of as I write – at least in a first draft. It’s only later that I become more conscious, and look at them with distance – and then decide if they’re “working” or not. whatever that means. Excited to see you and your class on Tuesday!

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