Monday, January 21, 2008

Becoming Rosemary

This is a rather odd story by Frances M. Wood. Rosemary is a 12 year old girl who begins to enter an adult world. The story takes place in a mountain community in the 1790s. The story deals with religious intolerance, puberty, witch craft, and discrimination.

Rosemary's family has a minor internal conflict with Christianity versus witchcraft. The women of the family interact with the magical world, if they choose, and the family views it as perfectly normal. They keep this aspect of their lives secret from the surrounding community. Some of the family are Christian, some witches. There is no open conflict in the family. Rather there is pressure to choose one side or the other, but no recriminations for whatever one chooses.

Meanwhile, a new family moves into the community. Through a series of unfortunate circumstances, the young wife is mistaken as a witch. What results is persecution by the community.

The author is very skilled at describing how a young child awakens to the world around them. Rosemary evolves from a silent observer of the world to one that chooses to interact with it. Still the odd interaction of magic/witchcraft versus religious intolerance is poorly handled. The author vilifies most of the community members who have chosen Christianity. She depicts the traveling minister as an ineffectual, evil leader. It is true, such intolerance and evil has been perpetrated by those proclaiming Christianity in history, but the author's handling of the topic is offensive.

The book is being marketed to children aged 5-7 years. IMO, that is far too young for the topics in the book. In fact, it would probably be best to skip the book all together.

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