The Hired Girl

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Good story on the surface, though it needed to be shorter. Good for tweens and young teens, especially for those in areas where Judaism is not known well or is not understood well.  Parents, please see the parental notes.  Laura Amy Schiltz can certainly tell a great story and deserves the acclaim she has earned.

But….

I found the whole “tolerance” message, though “cleverly” disguised as the ancient Catholics vs Jews struggle to be too P.C. for words. I giggled too when she was supposedly barely knowing about Judaism but “atones” for something….yeah.

Poor little Joan, a child escaping a cruel, patriarch in a Red State strikes a blow for women’s equality and goes off to the city where she is tempted to succumb to the evils of Patriarchal religion her poor late mother thought she believed but it in the cool, hip Blue State Big City she finds TOLERANCE and learns to value differences–even if the differences are due to “Mohammad” or Talmud or the Old Country ….

Funny, it is Baltimore but no African Americans are in the story. The grandson plays “Indians,” too (appropriate to the time of the story).  Joan even learns NOT to try to convert those of other faiths tho she has a long struggle over this one-. I’ll skip over the whole coincidence of the painting being about Joan of Arc……

Her self-education, guided by her thoughtful boss, always results in her learning the obvious lesson–that felt very contrived. She also learns the correct lesson from every misstep. And I found it unrealistic that she was not just fired the first time she overstepped! But those are things an adult will notice–not a tween or young teen.

But for a young teen this would be a good story to read to see a really, really good hired girl situation. (My great aunt had one so I know it did happen).  Also to illustrate how hard it was for anyone to become educated back then, let alone a girl and how hard housework used to be.

I thought it was good, that no horrible physical or sexual abuse was in there–her father, for example, didn’t explain a wife’s other “duty” or demand it from his unwanted daughter. Big relief. Nor did the age-old solution to an unwanted kitten come into it–that was dealt with sweetly. And, Joan feels guilty for not correcting the impression that her father beat her when he didn’t.

Very religious families of ANY faith will want to note there is an ambiguous ending to the “Is there a true faith” question. Nonetheless the story DOES treat all religions in a positive light on the surface–a HUGE improvement over many YA books, even if, as an adult, I felt it was obvious the story was about liberal idea that all Christians are phobes of some sort. A young teen would not see that at all. For an Evangelical Christian though the message of not living the Great Commission–not converting others–would be too much. While it SHOULD be very obvious that good manners dictate that you don’t evangelize at work, it would be lost on a young person. In spite of that I felt the tone was respectful of all faiths and all believers at least as far as a tween or young teen would understand.  Anyone over about 13/14 would smell a rat though.

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

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