I must have been living in a cave four years ago when Ayelet Waldman published this piece in which she says that she loves her husband more than her children. In talking about it now with friends, it seems as if everyone was aware of it at the time. Except me.
Of course, in reading about the history of the story and the reaction to it now, it seems as if most of the media attention came from sources like Oprah and The View.
Not my usual media outlets.
But I wish I had been following the story four years ago, because I cannot help but admire Waldman’s naked, unabashed honesty.
I mentioned this piece to some of my former students this week, and for the most part, they stood behind Waldman, expressing their belief that she was entitled to her own opinion and even understanding and agreeing with her position in some cases. In fact, the student most critical of Waldman only went so far as to say that it’s okay to love your husband more than your children, but you probably shouldn't let your kids know about it.
This is far cry from the critics, mostly mothers, who accused Waldman of being sick, twisted and evil.
"People were telling me that they were going to report me to the Department of Social Services, that my children should be taken away," Waldman said. Later she found a note on her gate expressing similar sentiments and adding, unnecessarily, "I know where you live."
This is an issue central to CHICKEN SHACK, and so it is one that I find fascinating. The reaction that people have toward an unpopular, unusual or contrarian viewpoint can vary by wide margins, but at times, it can be downright scary, as Waldman discovered when she expressed an opinion divergent from the norm. The power of the the mob, the unrestrained destructiveness of anonymity, and the perceived importance of conformity in our society are all issues with which one must grapple when expressing an opinion or conceiving of an idea that is not welcomed or appreciated.
Waldman discovered this the hard way, as does my protagonist in CHICKEN SHACK. Happily, it would seem as if Waldman has risen above the controversy and criticism and is now the stronger for it.
As for Wyatt, my protagonist, I am not sure. I haven’t reached the end of his story yet.
Kate DiCamillo summed it up best in her novel THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX:
“Reader, you must know that an interesting fate awaits almost everyone, mouse or man, who does not conform.”