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Dear Kelsey,

You remember this story better than I do.

We met for the first time the summer before high school when we peered into the windows of the nearly-finished school library. Who else, in that shy will-we-be-friends? awkward timidity, would press their face to the glass just to get a glimpse into the darkened room where the books would go?

Later, my dad said I had met a Kindred Spirit. And yes, he used the phrase deliberately   : )

This is where my memory ends, but you’ve always remembered further. You asked me what books I read and have always stumbled on my enthusiastic reply: romance novels.

If I try, I get a vague impression of my (doubtlessly articulate) defense of the genre and your weary disappointment, but I could very well be remembering the countless other times I had the same conversation due to my stubborn insistence that this was my genre.

In my diaries, I would talk about so many kinds of fiction—Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Mysteries, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Classics, Young Adult, Picture Books—but all I said that day was romance.  

For my thesis, I read an article about the popularity of series fiction for young children—The Babysitters Club, The Boxcar Children, Sweet Valley High, Animorphs… and so on ad infinitum. The article suggested that children read these books so consistently and devotedly because they use the repetitive structure to begin to internalize narrative. They learn to differentiate essential and extraneous detail and recognize the mechanics and construction of the plot. It was an amazing argument—the argument I wanted to make in my thesis, but Catherine Sheldrick Ross beat me by a more than few years—and I think it begins to explain why romance as a genre was so important to me. 

This week, I read my first classic romance novel in a long time. Going back was like an unexpected homecoming—affectionately and maddeningly familiar. As I read, I could replay all the old arguments for and against, the strengths and weaknesses, my passionate defense and your feminist critique. It was shockingly nice to retain an attachment to the genre rather than any specific book. Unlike those Certain Novels with beloved childhood memories engraved in the well-worn twists of plot, I could still be surprised by the subtle variations on the template and the outrageousness of the final denouement. And, because the previous week held an actual homecoming, it was a kind of nostalgic joy to look back at the girl I used to be through my journals and the novels I had chosen to represent myself. 

Thanks for sticking with her : )

Anyway. Please excuse the unfocused and overly-adjectived style today. Just wanted to say that I had a wonderful visit home and that I miss you. (Not sure whether the smiley or the sad face would be more appropriate, so take your pick!)

Love,

Maggie

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