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Summary

For the 150th anniversary of the publication of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, Kate Bolick, Jenny Zhang, Carmen Maria Machado, and Jane Smiley explore their strong, lifelong personal engagement with Alcott's novel - what it has meant to them and why it still matters.

Each takes as her subject one of the four March sisters, reflecting on their stories and what they have to teach us about life. Kate Bolick finds parallels in oldest sister Meg's brush with glamour at the Moffats' ball and her own complicated relationship with clothes. Jenny Zhang confesses to liking Jo least among the sisters when she first read the novel as a girl, uncomfortable in finding so much of herself in a character she feared was too unfeminine. Carmen Maria Machado writes about the real-life tragedy of Lizzie Alcott, the inspiration for third sister Beth, and the horror story that can result from not being the author of your own life's narrative. And Jane Smiley rehabilitates the reputation of youngest sister Amy, whom she sees as a modern feminist role model for those of us who are, well, not like the fiery Jo. These four voices come together to form a deep, funny, far-ranging meditation on the power of great literature to shape our lives.

©2019 Kate Bolick (“Meg’s Frock Shock”); copyright 2019 by Jenny Zhang (“Does Genius Burn, Jo?”); copyright 2019 by Carmen Maria Machado (“A Dear and Nothing Else”); copyright 2019 by Jane Smiley (“I Am Your ‘Prudent Amy’”) (P)2019 Tantor

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