When I was 12 or so, I got a book at some school event. This was the book:
I found it incredibly compelling. I read it through, and then one night at dinner I casually said, "You know, I think Jesus must have been a pretty good guy."
Note: if you want to freak out your Jewish suburban parents circa 1977, and I mean freak them out absolutely and completely, this is how to do it.
A long lecture followed, about PROPAGANDA and PROSELYTIZING and THE COURAGE OF YOUR CONVICTIONS (though I must say I was altogether lacking in religious conviction).
I did think about what they said: had I been sneakily convinced that Christianity was good because I read a good novel? I wasn't sure.
And that was pretty much the end of it. It didn't end up being a book I reread often, though whether that's because it was "disappeared" or I was interested in other things I don't remember.
And I didn't think much about it until this weekend.
We had to clean up the rooms, which involves moving beds and finding 30 or 40 books wedged against the wall.
We found this:
It ended up inside my bag, and then I ended up on an endless series of subway rides. Who can tell how these things happen?
I thought it might be excellent. I figured, Girl Power! I figured, hey, it was in my house, how bad can it be?
If we can believe Wikipedia, this book was written to put Ayn Rand's Objectivist Philosopy into terms that children could understand. (Wait, isn't that what The Fountainhead is for? Oh snap!)
Conveying Objectivism to children would be a lot easier if Mr. Nelson were more skilled as a writer. The book has many problems, among them a weird emotional disconnect—the set up involves an adult-clearing plague that leaves all the 12 and unders fighting for survival, but they don't seem particularly sad, which is a bit odd. I mean, maybe if I were one of a few billion dead grownups my kids would react with an "Oh well. Now, how can we find soda pop and protect ourselves from marauding gangs?" But I think there would be some emotional pain there.
Even if there weren't any pain, I can't imagine that in a world of children the dialogue would be quite so stilted. "You know, Lisa, if I could choose any kind of life in this mess, I think I would want a farm. Growing things is such great. fun."
And then there's the whole Objectivism thing.
It's tricky for me. Because sure, for some people their joy comes from work and finding solutions and self-reliance and all that sort of thing. But it's an awfully punishing philosophy toward the weak and the less intelligent and really anyone who isn't the achieving sort. And let me say that some of my most beloved humans are the less achieving sort.
That's not to mention the one-note simplistic aspect of things, and the (to me) misguided belief that we have total control over and responsibility for our circumstances. How does this take into account people born into repressive regimes, and devastating poverty?
So are my kids objectivists now? Diana said, "It wasn't very good." Chestnut said, "It was really interesting." Did it make them think differently? Not in any discernible way. Maybe propagandists should focus more on people who are paying attention? Or maybe they should just find better writers.