5 Lessons You Can Learn from Fictional Families
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.