When I turned 13, my mother gave me a signed first edition of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. She asked me to read it and she promised to one day discuss with me
her favorite character.
For years, she had been piling books in my room. Greek and Nordic mythology. Arabian fables. Anthologies of Dante and The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni. Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers. Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men In A Boat. Ulysses. Anything by Primo Levi. And Italo Calvino (please, gift your children with his writings). A full series of Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. And even one small pocket edition of short stories by Edgar Allan Poe that scared the bejesus out of me.
While I loved reading about Laura and became fascinated by her descriptions of churning butter and tapping freshly sugared sap and an attic full of winter squash and other supplies to get her through the winter, which was something very foreign and intriguing to an Italian girl, Little Women became one of my favorites. I immediately gravitated to Jo, the rebel. She lived unchaperoned in NYC, offered inappropriate stories to publishers, cut her hair short and turned down the rich boy next door.
While Jo will forever be my girl, I later concluded that Mrs. March was the true feminist character, the constructive one, the mother who allowed her four girls to thrive and follow their dreams by building their beloved castles in the clouds. She is sort of a gentler, old-fashioned, go-ahead kind of mom. She nourished her daughters with thoughts.
Nourishing is the best part of being a woman and a mother. We feed, listen, cook, teach, work, produce, give life, care, advocate, hug and fight. Nourishing doesn’t preclude women from being seductive, and it shouldn’t stop us from being leaders. Nourishing is a female privilege. That’s not an insult to men, who, by the way I love and appreciate. But nourish is largely the land of females. Nourishing deserves respect like women deserve equal rights.
The four March girls have kept coming back into my life in many ways, becoming even more daring, modern and, at times inflammatory. I rooted for the ladies in Sex in the City. I cried and laughed along with Hannah and the Girls on HBO (shall we talk about Matthew Rhys’ prosthetic Penis for a sec?!) And every decade I bump into a real-life incarnation of the four ladies in the form of my formidable girlfriends who are my lifeline. We bond over our need for love, respect and nourishment and our shared knowing of the importance of being allowed to be vocal, heard and successful. And I’m extremely thankful for each and every one of these women in my life.
A short while before the 2016 election, I took a walk with an argumentative friend. It became clear she was not going to vote for Clinton. What distressed me most at the time, though, was not her political viewpoint but a statement she made while discussing her choice. “The least of my concerns,” she said sternly, “is women’s rights.” Not acceptable, lady.
Dilma Rousseff once said, “I hope the fathers and mothers of little girls will look at them and say, ‘Yes women can.’” We, as women, have the responsibility to propel the movement for women’s rights forward. We also need energy and power to continue the journey we have ahead of us the next four years. Our daily fights are many but we need to persevere.
My mother died six months after giving me Little Women. I was never able to discuss with her which character was her favorite, although I like to think she, like me, was fond of Jo, the rebel. I consider myself incredibly lucky that in the short time she was with me, she fueled my passion for reading, writing and cooking; she supplied me with an insubordinate mind; and that she nurtured me and taught me to stand up for my beliefs. I want my daughter and my son to grow up with the same ideals but hopefully in a more forward-thinking, more accepting society.
So get your favorite foursome together and dial your elected officials to nourish your country back to normal. And remind everyone you know to do the same. And if you’re hungry for more than good intentions, try my mom’s honey and tangerine roasted chicken. It’s a recipe that will keep you happy while satisfying your hunger for food and equality. #RESIST