Posted: Sunday, November 25, 2012 6:58:25 AM
The day I stepped into the world of feminism was the day I shoved my nose into Elissa Scahppell’s “Blueprints for Building Better Girls”. The first words sent me on a roller coaster and made my hair fly around my face in a storm of emotion. My heart felt as if it might explode from my chest and walk down on the tracks on its own two feet. With her words Scahppell invoked new thoughts and feelings in me, which I had not previously considered.
By taking archetypal roles of woman and flipping the perspective to inside the woman’s head, Schappell opens a whole new world to the reader. She tackles every role from the teenage slut to the struggling middle-aged mother in Blueprints. This portrayal of real world women struck me as I was reading, for I was able to draw parallels between Schappell’s characters and the women I knew in my own life.
When she introduced Heather in the first story I felt as if I was meeting G. from my sophomore civics class. The attitude and reputation of the character were the same as that of G. When Heather draws on herself, I cannot help but think of the day G. came into class with pen swirls all over the back of her hand.
Then comes the character of Ms. Sanburg and I suddenly am staring at a carbon copy of my psychology teacher, a hippie who stands up for human rights. Everything from the description of Ms. Sandburg’s clothing and hair to the VW bug with bumper sticker slogans slathered across its bumper reminds me of my own teacher.
I had to put the book down and peek out the window to make sure that Scahppell did not have binoculars trained on my room. These women were the women of my life. When Kate and Douglas pop on to the page I find myself biting back tears and stroking the words with a finger as if Kate’s face were there. She reminds me of my favorite aunt who like Kate is unable to have children. The tears and words said are the same in both the fictitious and real-life story.
The people Schappell creates are just fictional bodies in which we can place women we know from our own lives. The different issues she touches upon such as barren womb syndrome and rape are strikingly prominent in the lives of many women in today’s world. Schappell did not create a world in her novel; instead she gave our world a stage and put me in the front row to watch the show.