I started reading Pope Joan the other day, hoping for a book that didn’t have a rape in it, since every other piece of fiction I’ve read in 2013 has had either a rape or a character’s recounting of her past rape. I thought I’d be safe reading a book about a woman everyone thought was a man.
Not so much. But that’s not my point. (By the way, there’s a GANG RAPE in this book as well as the murder of a pet. Fun times.)
My point is how weirded out I was to get to the part where the character, a smart little girl, is taught to read by an older brother who scratches her lessons out in the dirt of the pig pen.
I was weirded out because one of my unpublished novels has the exact same scene. Granted, my character isn’t a pope. But she does, like Pope Joan, grow up to become a doctor.
I’ve never read this book before, in fact I hadn’t heard of it until about three days ago. So I didn’t copy her scene. Nevertheless I can’t deny how many similarities there are between that book and the book I was writing a few years ago. For the record, that’s also the book I’ve set aside when I found out that everyone was writing books about the Amish. I wanted a book about an Amish girl who grew up to become a doctor, so it’s different from all the “will she leave the church and marry the Mennonite farmer next door?” that’s out there now. But I still felt derivative.
I think these two things–the constant rape and the oddly similar dirt alphabet scene–are part of why I’m having trouble writing. Because everything feels the same. I don’t know that I have anything new or interesting to say. I don’t know if my Amish are any more value to society than Beverly Lewis’ Amish or if my Welsh physician/mermaid is any different from any other Welsh physician/mermaid. I do know that there is no way I’m putting a rape in any of my books and so I think maybe that violates some modern rule about publishing.
I’m also staying away from Facebook because I’ve been told that people do not enjoy reading my Facebook Status Updates. Which seems, in the main, to be an odd complaint when they could just unfollow me. But whatever. This society and its ettiquette are all foreign and mostly peculiar. At least to me. I still live in a world where people aren’t getting raped every time they turn around. I also live in a world where people don’t use rape as an entertaining diversion. Most people, anyway, I hope.