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On Kathleen T. Horning's “On Spies and Purple Socks and Such” (from 2005)

Harriet the Spy by Louise FitzhughSometimes you have to lie. But to yourself you must always tell the truth.

—Ole Golly from Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

June is Pride Month (whether or not the White House recognizes it) and LGBTQIA folx and their allies are holding their rainbow flags — of various stripes — high. In the January/February 2005 issue of the The Horn Book Magazine, Kathleen T. Horning, director of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, writes about how Louise Fitzhugh’s classic Harriet the Spy was a touchstone book for her: “If you were a queer kid like me growing up in the sixties, I hope you were fortunate enough to come across books by Louise Fitzhugh. She may have saved your life, or at least made it a bit more comfortable.”

Re-reading Harriet as an adult and through a queer critical lens, Horning reflects on how important it was for her to see herself in Harriet M. Welsch, a gender-nonconforming "kindred spirit." To young queer kids today, Harriet and her group of friends might not seem so extraordinary, but back in the day they were nothing short of revolutionary: "It was as if Fitzhugh was telling us kids back in the sixties that you didn’t have to play by society’s rules, the first lesson a queer kid has to learn in order to be happy."

Happy Pride! And thank you, Lousie Fitzhugh, "whether consciously or unconsciously" for providing readers "with the tools for survival."

For more on this topic, click on the tags LGBTQIA+, Pride Month, Pride 2017, and Harriet at 50.


Kitty Flynn

Kitty Flynn is reviews editor for The Horn Book, Inc.

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I grew up in the 60's and loved Louise Fitzhugh's book Harriet the Spy. Although I am not gay I could thoroughly relate to Harriet. Yes, I did start writing a spy notebook just like Harriet. I threw it away about a year later and was horrified several years later when the 96 yr old neighbor up the street showed up at my door and presented it to me. She had a habit of going through everyone's outdoor trash and had found my spy book and saved it for me. I was really embarrassed because I had made several entries about her in my spy book which I'm sure she read.

Posted : May 11, 2019 04:31



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