If I could turn myself into a heroine... this would be it. Catherine, Called Birdy was written by Karen Cushman. It was a Newberry Honor book and a favorite purchase of mine at a mere $4.50 in 1995. Probably only $2.25 for me. I had a ravishing book habit (never truly went away) as a child, so as I got older and more responsible for purchases, books were the only half price deal- my mom would pay half and I paid the other. This book got so much love that I had to swipe it when I moved out (sorry Mom, I know you'll read this, but you can't get it back!). So as I sit here reading on the couch, bent over in hysterics at the same things that had me cackling as an 8 year old, I am transported back in time.
If I was born in 1276 AD in England, as Catherine was, I'm pretty sure we would be best friends. She, like I, loved to come up with excellent alternatives to cursing (Corpus Bones! being her favorite exclamation, which I shall start using again). She, at first, was hesitant about writing until it came to be a part of her daily life. Sometimes it's the simple nicknames of her suitors (Master Lack-wit is a particularly lovely one), or her recounting of the time a flamed barnyard fowl set the roofs of half the cottages in the villages on fire. Catherine was spunky and mischievous and adored reading, writing, and art. She was full of plans, normal feelings, and fun. I wanted to be Catherine. I saw my love of writing in her funny and honest diary (yes, I know it's fiction). I loved history and words like whilst or mayhap or amiss or ninny (normal 8 year olds don't use those words- I did).
Catherine helped me along with what my parents ingrained in me: that it was totally okay to be me (and encouraged). Of course my lexicon is a bit larger and has been a bit larger than most people's. She taught me quiet defiance (even if I can only write about it) and when to be outspoken. Little did I know, she also taught me to love religions. It's a bit hard and long to explain, as it is woven through scarcely, but it is there. Birdy helped me understand that history isn't always in the political figures, but also in the daily lives of the other people. Occasionally that kind of history is more fun! She would love modern art. She would like that women can wear pants and play in the mud and swim in rivers now.
Here's the one special bond that Catherine and I have. Catherine wanted to be a monk. Not a nun. A monk. For the most special and lovely of all things Medieval- illumination. Before I read this book, I knew Medieval history and knew the coolest job around (and less filthy than most) would be to be a monk and use my insanely neat handwriting to write books. I could painstakingly copy the word of God, among others. I could use Celtic knots around letters... best job ever. I would still become a monk if I could (if I can keep Thomas). If I could serve God and have an awesome time doing it- a monk's life as Catherine describes it would be it for me! "Edward works in Paradise... in three rows sit fifteen desks, feebly lit by candles, and fifteen monks sit curled over them, their noses pressed almost to the desktops... Never have I seen books so beautiful or so plentiful."
Okay, so not every girl (no one I've ever met actually, male or female) wants to live in the Medieval ages, become a monk, and spend a life hunched over vellum. But Catherine did. And her spunky love of the weird and quirky helped me to lead a full, spunky, loving, weird life for the past 23 years. Thank you, Karen Cushman for writing books with independent girls who lived in historical fiction for the weird nerd-girls among us. Thank you for at least showing me that someone else thought it would be cool, a life worth running away to (kept on thinking that, even when I learned only boys can be monks, I just kept on dreaming they'd come to their senses and let girls in). And thank you Birdy, for being the voice that gave rise to my own, confident self.
No. 6 of the 30 day blog post challenge: What book do you see yourself in? Just so you know, the runner up to this book was Webster's Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language. No lie.