Anna North on Reimagining a Wild West… That’s Good to Mothers
This Week on the History of Literature Podcast with Jacke Wilson
For tens of thousands of years, human beings have been using fictional devices to shape their worlds and communicate with one another. Four thousand years ago they began writing down these stories, and a great flourishing of human achievement began. We know it today as literature, a term broad enough to encompass everything from ancient epic poetry to contemporary novels. How did literature develop? What forms has it taken? And what can we learn from engaging with these works today? Hosted by Jacke Wilson, an amateur scholar with a lifelong passion for literature, The History of Literature takes a fresh look at some of the most compelling examples of creative genius the world has ever known.
In this episode, Anna North joins Jacke for a full discussion of the Western genre, how 21st-century authors have revived the form with modern-day sensibilities and a more layered understanding of history, her love of George Herriman’s quietly subversive Krazy Kat comics, and her new novel, Outlawed, a riveting adventure story of a fugitive girl, a mysterious gang of robbers, and their dangerous mission to transform the Wild West.
From the episode:
Anna North: I was conscious of not wanting to write another dystopia. My first novel is more dystopian, and in this case, I really didn’t want that to be the tone, and I didn’t want that to necessarily be the message. So while this is a society that has a lot of really deep-seated problems and a lot of really deep-seated sins, for lack of a better word, it is also one that treats pregnant people with respect that I think we don’t actually treat pregnant people with in the United States. It’s a small moment, but there’s a moment in the book when a character’s advised that if she is pregnant, even if she’s not married or even if the father of her child is having an affair with her, that he’ll have to support her, and the community will come around her and support her because they just value children that much, and they’re definitely going to take care of her no matter what. And that’s certainly not what we have here in the US, either in the medical system or in social services and social support. So in that way, I wanted this book to be truly not a nightmare scenario but just an alternate scenario of like, if history had unfolded differently, what are the new challenges, but also new triumphs that might happen?
Anna North is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the author of two previous novels, America Pacifica and The Life and Death of Sophie Stark, which received a Lambda Literary Award in 2016. She has been a writer and editor at Jezebel, BuzzFeed, Salon, and the New York Times, and she is now a senior reporter at Vox. She grew up in Los Angeles and lives in Brooklyn.