As weird as it sounds, my work has been studied in a great many college courses around the country. The Atom was a popular subject, Birds of Prey pops up a lot, occasionally Secret Six.
But the book that has, by far, been the subject of more of these studies than any other is my first Wonder Woman book, THE CIRCLE. I mean, I hear about it all the time that some college or other is using it in a course, and that’s a lot of fun and vaguely terrifying because there’s a great deal of personal equity in that book for me. It says a lot about the reality and the myths of feminist sisterhood, as well as my belief, as an adopted child, that making your own family is a privilege we all have, it’s almost an obligation, really. By which I mean, biology doesn’t have to be the end of this topic…I had a mentally ill father who I never spoke to after my parents broke up, followed by a bigoted redneck stepfather, followed by a stepdad, as an adult, who was just the coolest dude ever whom I dearly loved. I’ve had a lot of guys that I have adopted in my heart as semi-fathers, because they were there for me as examples of how to behave as a grown adult. I have women who are my sisters, biology be damned. And of course, I have biological relatives who are complete strangers to me in act and thought—they might as well be aliens.
All of that and lots, lots more is in the Circle. But it’s mostly subtext, on the surface, it’s kind of a ripping adventure story where Hippolyta gets most of the best lines. :)
Still, I have no idea why THAT book, of everything I’ve written, has been the subject of so much college level interest.
A great professor at the University of Oregon, which is the school I went to myself for theater and English studies, teaches an outstanding comics studies class there, and he’s invited some major names, like Matt Fraction and Greg Rucka, to come speak. I’ve done that as well.
He asked me a couple years ago to come to his class and speak because he’d been studying a couple of my books in class. I went, but the truth is, I am very awkward and stilted talking about my work on a meaningful level, for a number of reasons. I don’t like to talk about the process too much…I feel it illuminates the wrong thing, it focuses attention on the author’s frame of mind, not the story. Also, these weird little quirks in my toolbox, they’re mine, they belong to me, and were hard to come by and intensely personal. It feels weird to talk about them while people take notes, it’s like describing your sex life or something to a room of interns. And third, my ego is not what the books are about. So I get a little stiff in this situation.
SO I made a ton of scholarly notes. I gave it some good thought, and went over in my mind the literary devices I attempted and the historical and social context of the books, I sketched out the symbolism and allegorical nature of some passages, the whole thing, and yes, I do feel like an idiot talking about this stuff like that even now. Those things are there, but it feels unbearably arrogant to talk about it like that.
And I get there, and it’s a full class, and I talk a bit and do a Q&A, and the first question comes up, and I’m nervous, these are the brightest students in the state, this is gonna be awkward…”Ms. Simone, will Huntress and Josh ever have another date?”
I just burst out laughing. The whole class from then on was not hugely different from the questions at a con…”Why did Catman do this? Can we get Huntress a new costume?”
It was hilarious and wonderful. What was fun about it was, they had taken the book as an assignment, many had never heard of me, I’m sure, but they were totally on board, they were invested in the stories. I loved it, it really made me happy.
They asked some pointed cultural questions too, and I like to think I acquitted myself well there…if it’s not personal, I’m much better talking about the connections between fiction and societal changes.
What a blast.
I still don’t know why the Circle has attracted that kind of interest. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever written, I believe, and I’m intensely proud of it, but it’s not my favorite of my stories or even my Wonder Woman stories. It feels intense to me to reread, where others are more purely entertaining. There are things in it that churn me up to read a little. Maybe that’s what people are responding to. I don’t know.
In a couple weeks I will again be returning to UofO to discuss this book with Ben’s new class. I’m actually looking forward to it, this time!
If you have read that particular book, I’m interested to here any thoughts you might have on it. I don’t have a lot of perspective on my own work after it’s gone. So, I’d love to hear any opinions of any kind on that story.