I so wish I were in Northampton right now.
This is because Smith College is hosting an amazing panel of children and young adult authors tomorrow night that includes two of my favorite writers, Ann M. Martin and Virginia Euwer Wolff.
Ann Martin is a 1977 grad of Smith College and is known by women of my generation as the author of the Baby-Sitters Club series and off its various spin-offs. Say what you want about the books, but I read them voraciously. I grew up in Los Angeles, far away from Smith College, but put it on my list of colleges to research when I was 12 after reading Ann’s descriptions of her life in Gardiner House in her biography. So, I like to say that I’m at Smith thanks in part to Ann Martin.
The panel is timed in part to align with Ann Martin’s plans to donate her literary papers to the Smith College Archives. Generations of women ahead of me will be able to draw on primary resources to research topics like, how did Ann Martin’s descriptions of tweenhood circa 1987-1994 informed expectations of modern life amongst older millennials and Gen Yers in their courses in Women’s Studies and Anthropology. Or, in my case, try to codify and rectify Martin’s halcyonic descriptions of small-New England city/suburban life in Stoneybrook in reality circa 1992. I actually sought out a copy of this Baby-Sitters Club bible that Scholastic produced in order to show Nina Antonetti, the professor who taught a class I took on suburban landscape design, this hand-drawn map of Ann Martin’s Stoneybrook, with its heavy foliage and its curvilinear streets.
Virginia Euwer Wolff ‘59 is also a Smith alumna. Ms. Wolff wrote young adult fiction, including one book that I enjoyed a lot as a tween called The Mozart Season. The Mozart Season follows 12-year-old Allegra Shapiro (what a name!) during the summer before she enters 8th grade, which includes practicing for a violin competition, turning pages at a series of outdoor concerts on the behalf of her parents’ orchestra-member friends, and calling into radio shows to dedicate songs to a 14-year-old boy with whom she engages in a mild flirtation. All tame, given that the book was published in 1992. But, it should be pointed out, the book was SET IN PORTLAND. In 1992. Which, really, just means that The Mozart Season was more of a instructional guide on how to live the Dream of the 90s in Portland. Yes, indeed.
But because library paperback editions I read of Ms. Wolff’s books made no mention of her attending Smith, I did not know after I finished at Smith that Ms. Wolff and I could be kindred spirits. So sad! But I do owe much to Ms. Wolff’s books, for her descriptions of Portland informed my great interest in visiting that city, which I did, in 2002. And Portland in the summer was glorious. Naturally, I went visited every place described by name in the book.