Mermaids, Michelle Obama, and Other Magical Creatures

Was there a book you read as a kid that changed the course of your life?

For me, it was Hans Christian Andersen’s book of short stories, specifically “The Little Mermaid.” In fact, that just might be the story that made me a writer. How? The piece I wrote for the Washington Post this week explains. (For those who’ve never read the original little mermaid story, spoiler alert: It’s waaaaaay different from the Disney version. The mermaid dies at the end, all because she can’t communicate what she came up on land to do.) Here’s a teeny excerpt:

I thought about the things we trade away to get what we want, what we need. How often women accept their situations out of fear of repercussions or even simply fear of being seen as ungrateful or greedy. It should not be so difficult to verbalize, “I’m going to do something different,” or even, “I’m going to do something big.”

We have to be able to say these things out loud, put them on paper.

Anyway, the article ties the idea of using words to save your own life into the Let Girls Learn initiative, spearheaded by Michelle Obama. That group is doing some really cool work to make sure that girls around the world don’t have to suffer because they lack an education. (Mermaids and Michelle Obama in the same essay? It makes sense when you read it, I swear.) Humongous thanks to everyone who has shared the article and commented. I love reading your stories about finding your own voice.

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Speaking of wildlife . . . (sort of):

If you ever find yourself in need of a little encouragement, there are some spiffy little critters over at @wildlifecoach on Instagram (and on Tumblr) ready and waiting to pump you up. Wildlife Life Coaches is a new cartoon I just started (why? WHY do I think I have time for another thing? I DON’T KNOW, I COULDN’T HELP IT, THEY WERE JUST IN MY BRAIN ASKING TO BE DRAWN), and I’d love for you to follow along and tag a friend who needs a pep talk. Thank you!

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(PS — Back to the original question: Book that changed your life. What was it?)


  1. I read The Mists of Avalon when I was in the 9th grade. It changed my whole perspective about Christianity and the difference between Jesus and religion. It was a good lesson that sometimes (usually)His people totally miss the mark and go about things the wrong way. Unfortunately, I learn late in life that Marion Zimmer Bradley was a reprehensible human being, so it is not a book I will share with my own kids.

    I didn’t find the book I needed as a kid until last month. I just read “Dumplin'” by Julie Murphy. It’s the first book I ever read with a fat protagonist who was okay with being fat. I needed that as a kid.

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