Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Field Work for Fiction
Anthropologist Margaret Mead set out to answer the following questions in her most famous book, Coming of Age in Samoa: Are the disturbances which vex our adolescents due to the nature of adolescence itself or to the civilization? Under different conditions does adolescence present a different picture?
In other words, is adolescent turmoil caused by cultural factors or biological inevitability?
When asked this question in graduate school my first reaction was, who cares?
Okay, not exactly, but I did realize that I’m much more interested in the how (as in the personal stories of individuals) than the why (the grand theories about a culture based on the collective experiences of a group).
That’s when I knew that more fun (and it turns out, more practical) than pursuing a PhD in Anthropology would be immersing myself in contemporary North American ‘tween culture.
Goodbye Margaret Mead and Malinowski. Hello Taylor Swift and iCarly.
And I’ve never looked back. I love writing for ‘tweens because their lives are so dynamic and their identities, so fluid. These are the years when kids are figuring out who they are, who they want to be and how to get there – all cause for ENDLESS amounts of drama. And it all matters: Best friend breakups, crushes, unrequited like, boy-girl dances, siblings, step-siblings, fashion, algebra, I could go on. And on. And on. But I’ll save it for the novels.