Why I Encouraged My Teenage Daughter to Read #Outlander

When I was fourteen, I read Flowers in the Attic. Several of the other girls in my grade were reading it…whispering about it…stashing it away when the teachers walked by. Of course, I had to read it, too.  I was lucky; my mother was always happy to buy me books (although, had she read the book herself, she might have rethought that, at the time).

Some of my schoolmates had borrowed the book from their own mothers…and by “borrow” I mean that they took the book after their moms left for work and then slipped it back into place before their moms came home in the evening. In the time in between, we consumed the story with a kind of perverse fascination.

So this was what grown-ups read!

Outlander-blue-cover-198x300So when my own fourteen year old asked if she could borrow my battered copy of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, I didn’t hesitate long before passing the book to her. My heart skipped a beat as she dashed to her room to start reading but, to be perfectly honest, this was likely more concern for the fate of my beloved book than for how my daughter would react to the story.

No, that was a given.

This was one of those books that would leave a mark on her soul.

Some stories do that…they stay with you forever. I simply wanted to make sure that her first Adult Book was one worthy of the honor.

I read a lot of the same books that my daughter reads. Not because I am policing her reading, but because I want to share in it. When she comes to me sobbing over some book betrayal, I need to know who has earned those tears. But some of the books targeted to teenagers seem to portray the female protagonists as perpetually enduring some Great Tragedy, or waiting for a male character to define them/save them/notice them/love them.

Not all of the stories, mind you. There are some really good YA books with strong female characters who represented a wide range of diversity. But, honestly, we waded through a lot of simpering fools to find a few strong female protagonists. And a lot of the love interests shown in the books were either sparkly or broody. Many were emotionally manipulative or controlling. If she was going to have a “book boyfriend,” I wanted better for her.

So when I realized that my daughter seemed interested in this massive tome which made me laugh out loud, and ugly cry, and real passages aloud for the simple pleasure of feeling the words on my lips, I didn’t discourage it.

In fact, I encouraged it.

I scoured the books to find passages which showed the strength of love, the resilience of the human spirit, the anguished soul clawing its way out from the pits of despair. Some passages I read aloud. But sometimes, I left the book conspicuously next to the sofa—pages temptingly dog-eared—like an offering.

So when she finally asked to borrow the book, it was a relief, really.

“Where are you?” I’d ask eagerly. But not too eagerly.

The book served as a way to talk about hard things, scary things, awkward things… We talked about love and sex and respect and mutual pleasure and consideration between couples. We talked about marriage and expectations and the roles we construct for ourselves (and those that others wish to inflict on us). We talked about sexuality and about when feelings aren’t reciprocated. We spoke of honor and vows. Of promises kept…or not. We shared tears and heartbreak and loss. We talked about rape and brutality…and of healing. We spoke of hope and faith and trust.  We talked about when to hold on; we talked of when to let go.

I let my fourteen year old daughter read the book not in spite of the fact that the books is mature, but because it is. I let her read the book because I know that a book can be more than just entertainment—more than just a story.

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, a book can be a conversation…or at least the beginning of one.

 

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26 thoughts on “Why I Encouraged My Teenage Daughter to Read #Outlander

  1. This is so beautifully written. I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes! You are absolutely right. Our daughters deserve to see a strong, competent and complex female character that is not wandering the world looking for a man to save or complete her. The flaws of both Jaime and Claire open the door for many conversations about relationships, honor, trust, and of course sex. I, too, look forward to the day that I can hand the story over to my daughter. For now I must be content with sharing only some of the passages… 12 is a bit too early for the full text.

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  2. I wish my mom or dad would have read more of the books that I did. Mom read a few, but our tastes were very different when I was a teen. Mom didn’t care for the science fiction, historical fiction, and and non-fiction topics that I loved as a kid and still do. I wasn’t a big fan of the Christian fiction and Biblical research that she liked. Now, since I will read anything that has words in a language that I can somewhat understand, I read Mom’s books too. I miss having people to talk about books with. My co-workers aren’t big readers of my favorite genres either. The net helps, but I miss the excitement of sharing a beloved book one on one.

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    • This speaks to my heart. It is so hard when you find a book treasure but have no one to share the gems with. That being said, I love talking about books. Feel free to stop by and chat any time.

      And I love that you “will read anything that has words in a language that [you] can understand.” This makes my soul happy.

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      • In my mom’s defense, she willingly took me to the library and gave her permission for my 10 year old self to check out books from the “adult” section. At our library way back then, books like Little Women were in the adult area, not the children’s area. But I sure didn’t stop at the “A’s”. And I certainly didn’t stick to mainstream fiction. I am so thankful that I was encouraged to read whatever I wanted without being censored by my parents. Some of the books I had to go back and re-read as an adult, and some of them STILL don’t make that much sense to me, even 40 or so years later. But, I scared myself reading true crime books, diagnosed myself reading psychology books, learned cuisines from around the world from cookbooks, hopefully have become an inoffensive guest by checking out etiquette books, soared with dragons, griffons, and F-15s, wept and laughed with countless literary friends, and made real life human friends through the shared love of the written word. Giving a child the gift of reading is giving him or her a passport to an amazing and wonderful world of discovery. Just turn the page.

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  3. I’m still waiting for my mom to explain sex to me. And she’s been dead for 23 years! She didn’t read books, only magazines, so no chance of opening dialog. I only read what i could get from the school library or book mobile. Nothing racy. I applaud you for sharing Outlander with your daughter. Some parts will be shocking, but they were shocking to us grownups too.
    Interestingly, Diana has said that her own daughters have not read Outlander. But it was more of a ewww mom, icky how do you know so much about sex thing

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  4. I read Outlander before my mom, and she doesn’t have good things to say about any of it. But it occurs to me, my mom doesn’t like stories. I’ve never ONCE heard her talk about a story that stuck with her, or characters, no matter how flawed, that she loved. I feel like the last straw should’ve been when she said my beloved Elizabeth Bennet was annoying and selfish. She obviously missed Lydia Bennet.
    She doesn’t like Jamie, she finds Claire annoying. She kind of liked Roger, but not really. The more she talks poorly about this series, the more my heart breaks. 😥

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    • You must take the good with the bad, not everyone finds Outlander to their liking. I know that’s hard to believe. Different types of books speak to their hearts and minds.

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  5. How wonderful that you shared this with your daughter. I often go to my daughter for YA book recommendations!! I know she’s read this but as yet I have not. I’ll need to ask her about it. Sounds from your recommendation perhaps I should read this soon…

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  6. This made me smile! I was a complete bookworm and used to read a lot of Catherine Cookson and Danielle Steel novels when I was 12 as I had read everything else in the children’s section of the library. My mother was given a copy of the then new best seller “Hollywood Wives” but never got past the first chapter. My mother always read her “People’s Friend” magazine and would complain a book took too long to read. I asked my mother if I could read her book, and she agreed. Her friends were horrified that she allowed me to read this book, due to the inappropriate language and sex scenes. It was the best sex education lesson-in-a-book ever, which provoked great dialogue between my mother and myself.

    I agree, our young women need to read good books with strong female characters, and Claire Randall Fraser is tremendous!

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  7. Though my daughter and I have very different taste in books it was her that led me to Outlander.However I understand the gift of sharing with my son, when we couldn’t communicate we could bond over Game of Thrones.Same conversations just with a son and not a daughter. I was always lucky with my daughter her and I always could talk about anything

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  8. I wholehearted agree. I “secretly” allowed my daughter to read Outlander last year at 14 nearly 15 under the proviso that she didn’t tell my “mum friends” that had read the book. I felt guilty! Ridiculous isn’t it. We too had and continue to have (as she is reading the rest of the series) fantastic conversations about anything and everything our beloved J & C experience. I love the fact that the novels show in a realistic way how relationships are formed and maintained not just the normal boy sweeps girl off her feet and they live happily ever after nonsense.

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    • Yes! I love that J&C’s relationship evokes. I love that it is tested. I love that they struggle yet endure. I love it when Jamie works out a thought, emotion, or reaction. Often it helps ME reconcile my own thoughts, emotions, and reactions to an event in the book. I love the bits written from Jamie’s point of view as well…I feel like I’m getting a secret glimpse inside the male psyche. I love that the books show a relationship without manipulation, etc. I want my daughter to read a strong woman who is in a loving and respectful relationship. So much love. 💕

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  9. My daughter has always been an avid reader, so when Outlander came across my path, I encouraged my daughter to read it. She is not a teen and is fast approaching her fortieth year, but we love the books and catch up and discuss them, each time we talk. Connections are paramount in relationships, so Outlander has given us another avenue to connect.

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  10. There’s a bit in one of the Future History books by Heinlein that adresses this topic beautifully. I can’t remember for sure, but I think it’s in To Sail Beyond The Sunset.
    Anyway, the mother is having a cow over the father letting their teenaged daughter read his medical books. He says to his wife something like, it’s much better that she’s getting her education from books rather than from gossip and hearsay. Furthermore, he can point out the errors in the books and save the daughter from making terrible decisions.

    Heinlein says it much better and the wife is just stopped cold.

    And I like Heinlein’s work even if he’s not very politically correct, I’m just afraid he was a prophet.

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  11. I was fourteen when I read outlander for the first time. My best friend’s mother had read it and was encouraging her daugher (My Best friend) to read it as well. I (Being an avid book worm) wanted to read it as well.
    My best friends mum talked to my mum and she soon after bought a copy for me.
    I am nearly sixteen now and both my mother and I both have read all of the books. My best friend and her mother have also read them. We often meet for coffee and find ourselves discussing it for hours.
    We all love it and it had bought my mum and I a lot closer. I think it’s great that you encouraged your daughter to read it.
    I have read a lot of books, and I mean hundreds, but outlander will always have a place in my heart. I love it and I thank my best friends mum for encouraging me to read it, and buy me a copy.

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  12. So I’m thinking I should hand Outlander to my 14 year old son! I want him to know that real men love deeply, with honor and respect toward their wife. Of course my husband is a great role model, but Jamie is… Well you know 😏

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  13. Outlander series are my favorite books ever. And I am a gobble gobble reader and lit major in college who has always had a book in progress. My kids are both readers, as is my husband and now our grandkids. A great legacy that should never be forgotten and always passed on.

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