Author Joanne Harris recently spoke at the Hay festival in Wales, and discussed how boys should be encouraged to read books about girls, because “a boy who is afraid to read a book with a girl protagonist will grow up into a man who feels that it’s inappropriate for him to listen to a woman’s voice.
The ‘Chocolat’ author, who also taught in an all-boys school for 15 years, discussed with the audience that violence against women is a constant threat that “needs to be addressed really early, long before an actual crime happens.”
“We have to stop girls being apologetic when they have done nothing wrong. We have to stop boys being entitled when they’re actually not entitled to have more than anybody else. We’ve got to stop teaching them differently as teachers, that will help a lot.”
She continued: “Also we’ve got to stop giving them the message that it’s wrong for a boy to read books about girls. Because even schools are giving them this message. And this is where the problem happens, where women’s voices are perceived as less.”
Harris also discussed her newest novel, ‘Broken Light,’ at the Women of a Certain Age literary festival. The novel is described as a “menopause Carrie,” referring to the famous horror novel by Stephen King.
Harris stated that the protagonist in her new novel, Bernie Ingram, gains supernatural powers when she reaches menopause, as opposed to when she goes through puberty in the original novel.
Harris believes this distinction is important, especially for the messages of the female experience she wants to emphasize for readers.
“[Menopause is one of] the things we choose not to talk about because we think people are going to judge us on them. [Issues women are encouraged to keep private] grow and grow unless we externalize some part of it,” she explained.
Harris discussed the storyline of her new novel in relation to the recent case of Nicola Bulley, who was found dead after going missing near a Lancashire river this year. During the search, police officers released information that described Bulley as struggling with alcohol use and perimenopause symptoms.
“The implication is that if you are a young mother and attractive then you are valuable and therefore your death is a tragedy, but if you are a menopausal woman you are high risk and low value.”
“the narrative became less ‘a mother disappears in mysterious circumstances’ and much more ‘a menopausal woman finds her way into the river’,” Harris said.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.