Some parents are as annoying as their children, sometimes even more so. I have them come into my bookstore saying, “We need a book for an 11-year-old girl, can you suggest something?” Why do many people presume that a girl needs a ‘girlie’ book, and that she cannot read adventure, science fiction or something action-based, that she is more suited to a Meg Cabot’s Every Boy’s Got One rather than Anthony Horowitz’s The Falcon’s Malteser.
Sometimes, I jump in to make a point. “Why don’t you give her a Phillip Pullman instead? She’s a smart girl and then, won’t she have to be competing with men later in life?”
Most times, they just don’t listen, even if I tell them that as a young girl I loved an Alistair Maclean or a James Hadley Chase as well as a piece of good literature like the amazing The Count of Monte Cristo much more than some mushy stuff. And I was no exception, and I was in good company.
Some parents even lovingly have the ‘girlie’ book packed in pink paper, and put in a pretty pink bag! What about something really scary like a Goosebumps, a good old Hitchcock, or a nice western like Louis Lamour. I remember reserving my horror books for late nights to get the most paise out of them. And then when the thrill of the terrifying rollercoaster ride got too much for me finally, I’d suddenly shut my book, look around me to make sure I was indeed safe, and huddle beneath my quilt to settle into a greatly satisfied sleep. I had got my money’s worth.
As a girl, and a female, I would say that every growing girl must read every kind of book. Pretty is not real. Why must we bring up our girls into a rosy unidimensional world. If we have to give her a taste of the unreal, let her get a taste of as many versions of ‘unreal’ out there.
And yes, the boys can also dip into those ‘girlie’ books for a change.
Shobha Sengupta owns the bookstore-gallery, Quill and Canvas, in Gurgaon
The views expressed by the author are personal