Laurie Frankel on the Way That Girls Superhero
This Week on the Book Dreams Podcast
Book Dreams is a podcast for everyone who loves books and misses English class. Co-hosted by Julie Sternberg and Eve Yohalem, Book Dreams releases new episodes every Thursday. Each episode explores book-related topics you can’t stop thinking about—whether you know it yet or not.
What happens when a novelist takes on complicated and often controversial issues that consume her? And what’s the payoff for the reader when she succeeds? Laurie Frankel—a New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of four novels, including the newly released One Two Three—shares with co-hosts Eve and Julie some of her thoughts about the challenging and important topics that she brings to life in her books. They discuss the connection between Laurie’s third novel and a parenting experience that she described in a New York Times Modern Love essay; how Laurie sees and conveys everyday people fighting epic battles; how receiving hate mail attacking her as a mother is ironically easier than reading a bad review of one of her books; and the impact of shared trauma on a community and its citizens. Laurie also addresses J.K. Rowling’s baseless comments denigrating the transgender community.
Laurie: We get that male hero narrative over and over and over again. I think the way girls superhero is different from that. I think it is often more interesting. I think it is often more effective. And it is much less often told. I think our daughters are going to save us. I think that the generation of girls coming up is going to save us all, and we need it. So that is one of the things that inspired this book. My daughter and her activism, even at a very young age, and the way that she’s going about it is different from generations that came before her.
Eve: There’s this great moment in your book where Mirabelle talks about teenage girls not getting—here, I wrote it down—”don’t get enough credit for this, their ability to see the potential import of everything no matter how insignificant it seems and analyze it endlessly.” She’s describing female characters doing that thing that girls do, which is to analyze every last detail of every last thing. But you’re saying it’s a strength, it’s a power.
Julie: It’s a superpower. Love that. Three cheers for that.
Laurie: For me, that’s what the whole book is about. Lots of the people in this book suffer from this thing that has been done to them. My elevator pitch for this thing is it’s about a very small town with a very dark past, which turns out not to be so past after all. And that very dark past has resulted in a great many challenges for the people who live in this town. And indeed, many of them suffer from disabilities. Those two, I think, are often sold short, are often suggested to us as being negatives, when in fact these girls want to say, “No, these are strengths. This is what makes us so amazing. Look what we can do.” It’s gonna take 400 pages, it’s not gonna look like you’re used to seeing where it’s this very strong, very lone man who takes care of things all by himself and that’s what makes him remarkable.
Girls carry as they climb; girls find strength from one another. They aren’t going to look necessarily like what we think superheroes are going to look like, but that’s why it works. One of the things that I think is so interesting about the superhero genre is that there’s so much destruction in their way. And it was like, “Great news, I’ve saved New York City.” Never mind about these 400 innocent bystanders got crushed by cars along the way. Look how strong and impressive I look in my spandex. And that’s—I mean, I don’t even know if it’s an appealing fantasy, but it’s certainly a fantasy.
Laurie Frankel is the New York Times bestselling, award-winning author of four novels. Her new novel, One Two Three, is due out in June of this year. Her writing has also appeared in the New York Times, The Guardian, Publishers Weekly, People Magazine, Lit Hub, and many other publications. Her novels have been translated into more than 25 languages and have been optioned for film and TV. She was recently named one of the 50 most influential women in Seattle, where she lives with her family, and makes good soup.