5 Lessons You Can Learn from Fic­tional Fam­i­lies

Real Simple - - Relating - By Sarah Rob­bins

THESE BELOVED CHAR­AC­TERS SHOW US HOW TO LOVE , HOW TO LEARN, AND HOW TO HAVE FUN.

Nur­ture all the great loves in your life.

Peo­ple tend to fo­cus on the ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ships in Jane Austen nov­els, but the non­ro­man­tic ones move the sto­ries for­ward just as much. In both Pride and Prej­u­dice and Sense and Sen­si­bil­ity, the shap­ing forces of the main char­ac­ters’ lives are their close re­la­tion­ships with their sis­ters. It’s an idea that came from Austen’s own life: One of her great­est loves was her sis­ter, Cas­san­dra. I love that Austen fre­quently wrote about pla­tonic fe­male friend­ships, which in­flu­ence women’s lives and des­tinies so much. And about sib­lings; af­ter all, your sib­lings were there be­fore you even met your part­ner. It’s easy to say that ro­man­tic love trumps all and lose sight of these re­la­tion­ships, but it’s so im­por­tant to keep nur­tur­ing them as adults.

The March sis­ters turn to one an­other

and their own imag­i­na­tions for en­ter­tain­ment. They were mak­ers

be­fore be­ing a maker was cool.

Even role mod­els make mis­takes.

At­ti­cus Finch, from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mock­ing­bird, is held up as an ex­am­ple of a won­der­ful fa­ther and per­son—so much so that peo­ple are nam­ing kids af­ter him! He teaches his chil­dren the im­por­tant les­son of see­ing the good in ev­ery­one, but I would ar­gue that he can take it too far, even some­times ex­pos­ing his kids to dan­ger. My stu­dents, who are in their teens, of­ten have con­tentious re­la­tion­ships with their par­ents and other adults. When we read this book, I ask them to eval­u­ate At­ti­cus as a par­ent, con­sid­er­ing how he is won­der­ful and how he misses the boat. It gives them a chance to poke holes in the myth of parental per­fec­tion and see adults in a new light. AN­DREW SIM­MONS IS AN ENGLISH TEACHER IN OAK­LAND, CAL­I­FOR­NIA, WHO IS WRIT­ING A BOOK ON HOW READ­ING

CAN IM­PROVE TEENS’ SO­CIAL LIVES.

Teas­ing can bring a fam­ily to­gether.

For the Weasley fam­ily in the Harry Pot­ter se­ries by J.K. Rowl­ing, teas­ing is a love lan­guage: The par­ents and seven sib­lings aren’t con­stantly say­ing “I love you,” but they ex­press love by show­ing up and by jok­ing around. Some­times they go too far, like when they tease Ginny about hav­ing a crush on Harry right in front of him. But they mostly get it right. They demon­strate that teas­ing re­veals in­ti­macy, say­ing, “I know your weak­ness, and I know how much to push on it with­out hurt­ing you.” VANESSA ZOLTAN IS A RE­SEARCH AS­SIS­TANT AT THE HAR­VARD DIVINITY SCHOOL

AND COHOST OF THE POD­CAST HARRY POT­TER AND THE SA­CRED TEXT. SHE LIVES IN CAM­BRIDGE, MAS­SACHUSETTS.

You can make your own fun.

There’s a rea­son the March sis­ters from Louisa May Al­cott’s Lit­tle Women are so iconic: They turn to one an­other and their own imag­i­na­tions for en­ter­tain­ment. They put on plays to­gether, write their own news­pa­per, form their own club, and help peo­ple in their com­mu­nity. (In my retelling, they cre­ate a funny, 1990s-style self-pub­lished zine.) It makes for a lively, sat­is­fy­ing fam­ily life and strength­ens the bonds they en­joy as sis­ters and friends. The March sis­ters were mak­ers be­fore be­ing a maker was cool. Read­ers have loved them for so long be­cause they fight like ac­tual sib­lings, but there’s so much joy in what they do.

LAURA SCHAE­FER IS THE AU­THOR OF LITTLER WOMEN: A MOD­ERN RETELLING. SHE LIVES IN OR­LANDO, FLORIDA.

Ev­ery rel­a­tive has some­thing to teach you.

In Rita Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Sum­mer, which is set in the 1960s, three sis­ters from Brook­lyn, New York, go to live with their es­tranged mother, Ce­cile, in Cal­i­for­nia, where she is in­volved with the Black Pan­ther Party. The girls don’t want to go at first. They are close to their fa­ther, who raised them. But Ce­cile teaches them to be more con­fi­dent and to cre­ate a sis­ter­hood, and she learns that there is po­ten­tial in­side each child that can be un­locked with love and sup­port. This book teaches us that un­der­stand­ing is about see­ing things from some­one else’s per­spec­tive, but also about open­ing up your own mind.

MAR­LEY DIAS, 13, IS THE FOUNDER OF THE #1000 BLACK GIRL BOOKS CAM­PAIGN AND THE AU­THOR OF MAR­LEY DIAS GETS IT DONE: AND SO CAN YOU! SHE LIVES IN NEW JER­SEY.

KATE HAMILL IS AN AC­TRESS AND A PLAY­WRIGHT WHO SPE­CIAL­IZES IN ADAPT­ING CLAS­SIC NOV­ELS FORTHE STAGE, IN­CLUD­ING PRIDE AND PREJ­U­DICE AND SENSE AND SEN­SI­BIL­ITY. SHE LIVES IN NEW YORK CITY.

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