Gentle readers: We are happy to add the story of another conversion to Jane to our monthly column, Reading Austen. Today’s guest blog is by Meredith Esparza who shares her personal story of how she discovered Jane Austen and why reading her novels is so special for her.
Finding Jane Austen During My Awkward Stage
You’ve heard that everyone goes through an “awkward stage,” right? That awkward time of life, between the ages of eleven and fifteen where teens experience growth spurts, braces, and acne? But the term doesn’t just apply to a teenager’s physical appearance, does it? It can also apply to their social and behavioral development, as well. During the “awkward years,” teens not only mature into their adult bodies, but they mature into their adult mindsets and personalities, too. Some teens do it gracefully, while others, like me, experience some awkwardness…
When was my awkward stage? It started when I entered middle school and lasted until about sophomore year in high school. (Kind of long, I know!) These years were awkward for me because, unlike many of my friends, I wasn’t in a hurry to grow up. I wasn’t into boy-bands, make-up, or cellphones. I was still content with being a little girl, playing with my American Girl dolls and watching Disney movies. I knew it was time to mature and leave my childhood interests behind, but I just didn’t know where to go next.
I didn’t find the answer until the summer of my sophomore year of high school when I borrowed the 1940 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice from my local library. Up until that time, I felt isolated, socially awkward, and unsure of the person I wanted to become. But after seeing my first Austen adaptation and subsequently reading all of Jane Austen’s novels, I saw with perfectly clarity the type of person I wanted to become: an Austen heroine.
I didn’t necessarily want to dress like these heroines and live their lives, (although, that would in no way be disagreeable to me!) I wanted to possess their strength of character, their moral compasses, and their sense of self-worth. What better guides could a young girl ask for than Elinor Dashwood, Anne Elliot, and Elizabeth Bennet? Who better to learn life’s lessons from than a writer who perfectly illustrates the flaws in human nature while gently imparting instruction in each novel?
After discovering the world of Jane Austen it no longer mattered to me that I didn’t have a boyfriend, or that I wasn’t friends with the popular crowd at school. I didn’t feel the desire or need to fit into that world any more. I found a whole new world that I’d much rather be a part of – one without AOL chat rooms, MTV, and peer pressure – a world that manifested itself in my life and gave me the feeling that I belonged.
From that point on, Jane Austen became a part of my everyday life. With movie adaptations, Austenesque novels, and fantastic Austen blogs to follow, I found a niche for myself and grew out of my awkward stage. And what’s even more wonderful, is that I discovered a community of the people that feel the same ways I do. A community of readers and authors that love witnessing Darcy and Elizabeth fall in love over and over again, that secretly wish Anne Elliot could be their best friend, and that live by the motto “All Jane Austen, All the Time!” What could be more perfect?!?
Looking back, I feel that Jane Austen entered my life at the perfect moment, not too soon and not too late. She found me during my awkward stage, helped me survive my adolescence, and taught me how to be an Austen heroine. She is more than just a writer, interest, or hobby, she is a part of my life, and I don’t think that will ever change.
At what point did Jane Austen enter your life?
Meredith Esparza is a music teacher living off the coast of North Carolina with her very own Mr. Darcy. She is a long-time admirer of Jane Austen and an avid reader. Her blog, Austenesque Reviews is devoted to the reading and reviewing of numerous Jane Austen sequels, fan-fiction, and para-literature. Currently she is hard at work planning her annual blog event, Austenseque Extravaganza, a month-long celebration of Austenesque novels and authors, which will be in September of 2012. She hopes to see you there! Visit Meredith at her blog Austenesque Reviews, follow her on Twitter as @austenesque and on Facebook as Austenesque Reviews.
Would you like to share your personal story of reading Austen here with fellow Janeites? Submit your essay of approximately 750 words revealing how you discovered Jane Austen’s novels and why they are so special to you to Austenprose. It just might be included in our monthly column, Reading Austen, which will be published on the first Friday of every month.
© 2007 – 2012 Meredith Esparza, Austenprose