As the mother of a teenage daughter, the arrival of The Hunger Games, was a welcome one. Our literary journey has been a mix of classic literature and the imaginary worlds of Hogwarts, Twilight and now, District 12 and Panem. Our home is filled with music and art and books. Our respite from comparing universities for my daughter, or my study of and advocacy for women in Sudan, Congo and elsewhere in Africa, centers around the written word and films. We have the strongest affinity for Jane Austen's prose, Herodotus' genius, Nathaniel Hawthorne's depth, and Ovidian's insight into character and moral choices.
The daughter of a journalist and an artist, my tastes are eclectic to be certain. My family placed Kipling in my hands at age three, and for my daughter, it has been much the same. When Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games came into our life last year much of the publicity painted it as a left wing imagining of a dystopian, post-Occupy Wall Street future.
What we found instead was remarkable. A young sixteen year old girl, Katniss Everdeen, struggles with poverty and emotional strife in the wake of her father's death. There are thousands of families in the US Armed Forces that relate quite directly to the loss. Every young person struggles with developing their self-worth and identity. It is a natural course of events.
Katniss is skilled in archery and an expert huntress. She is a creative cook, as are most folks with a small budget. She displays strong maternal feelings towards her fragile, younger sister. Katniss is without guile. She is innocent, just on the cusp of womanhood. Katniss is beautiful but unaware of her beauty. She possesses strong character and is willing to sacrifice herself for her sister, as well as for the greater good.
Katniss is a refreshing departure from the hypersexualized images and caricatures of young women in modern literature and entertainment. The lovely notion a girl can be smart, self-sufficient, a hunter, chaste and worthy of admiration and respect is a lesson worth teaching. Knowing. And living. Every day.