Thursday, October 21, 2010

Come on Barbie, Let's Go Party!

My post this month is going to be a tad different than usual because I firmly believe that every milestone in this tough business of ours should be celebrated—and that’s exactly what I did last night. Celebrate.

You may think that nonfiction books and a rockin’ party don’t go together—but you would be wrong! Last night was the official launch party for my new book The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie: A Doll’s History and Her Impact on our Culture. And let me tell you, people were In the House to celebrate nonfiction!

The place: Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, Vermont.
The time: 7:30 p.m. on a Wednesday evening.
The crowd: SRO!

Even after a long day of working, shuttling kids to play rehearsals and soccer games, nonfiction aficionados showed up to usher in this newest addition to the Dewey Decimal shelves. There were parents, teachers, librarians, and kids armed with questions (as well as a few Barbie dolls). Who says nonfiction is dead? Phooey!

On hand were Karen Pike--the photographer I hired for the bulk of the interior images--and Peter Harrigan--the theatre professor/Barbie collector who made the photos possible.

The questions from the audience were fabulous. We talked about writing process, how do you know when it’s time to stop your research, and the many, many cultural questions that come up when people start to talk about Barbie.

The question I addressed first seems to be the most frequent and obvious one surrounding the publication of this book. The question posed to me, in its many forms, always comes from this place: “YOU wrote a book about Barbie? Really? Barbie? You?”

Although I actually anticipated and dreaded this questions several months ago, now I really enjoy it. Why? Because the question is at the heart of why any nonfiction writer (any writer, really) chooses to write about a topic—and why they are the right person to tackle it. It opens up all kinds of avenues for thought and discussion.

Yes, I often write what might be called feminist books, or books that have at the heart of them a desire to empower girls. And yes, on the surface, the topic of Barbie seems at odds with that. But that’s what’s so fantastic about immersing yourself in a topic of nonfiction, looking at the back story, discovering the who, what, why, where, and when of a topic, looking at it from all sides and ultimately synthesizing an understanding of it.

I won’t give away what my conclusions are, lest I be accused of treading into Spoiler territory. But I will tell you that every time I answer the question of “Why, why, why, would YOU of all people choose to write about Barbie?” I am rewarded with the facial changes, head nodding, and verbal feedback that indicate I have made a connection with my audience. I have expressed myself. I have initiated a thought process out in the world that leads to discussion.

This is why I write nonfiction. And THAT is definitely something to celebrate.

So come on Barbie, let’s go party!


Anonymous said...

Great post, Tanya, and congrats on your official book birthday! I LOVE THIS BOOK. And I can totally see the feminist connection. I won't spoil it by saying what, though!

Gretchen Woelfle said...

While I never censored my daughters' reading, I declined to buy them Barbies. Can't wait to read BARBIE and see if I made the right decision!

Marfe Ferguson Delano said...

Years ago when we were planning my daughter's 6th birthday she declared, "If anyone asks what to get me as a present, tell them NO BARBIES!" Of course she still ended up with some, along with a pink Barbie car. She and her younger brother ended up playing with that for hours, loading the Barbies into the car and then sending them zooming off the deck to crash in the yard below. I look forward to reading your book, Tanya!

Unknown said...

Congratulations on a fun and successful book launch. It's a great topic and a great title -- perfect combination to draw readers in. Good luck. P.S. And Shelburne is a beautiful place for a party.

Fourth Musketeer said...

Just got your book from Amazon and read it in one night...I'll be reviewing it on my blog, The Fourth Musketeer, eventually. Loved it! I wish you a lot of success with this title. I love Barbie and started a family feud by giving one to a Barbie-deprived niece (I'm not sure, but they might have confiscated it...and it was even Barbie as a vet! a good role model...)

Linda Crotta Brennan said...

Congratulations, Tanya.
I confess I shook my head, too. You, writing about Barbie. Now I have to go read the book and discover the connection!

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Lots to like here - the justified rah-rah for nonfiction, the crowd drawn in by your work, the thoughtful questions posed by said crowd, etc. I wish I was at more events like that! Congrats on the book.

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

And by the way, did anyone else recognize the source of this post's title? Or am I the only kidlit author with Aqua on my iPod?