When I tell you that THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB touched my life in a significant way those words seem pale when compared to the feeling I get when I see one of those covers.
Growing up in Iowa black and female in the late 1980s, I didn’t have a lot of people that looked like me or things that felt familiar to my deeply southern roots. BSC found me at a time when I retreated into a literary world of my own curation. Not only did Ann M. Martin see fit to include more than just white girls in these books, but she showed them being friendly towards people who didn’t look like them while being honest enough to show them working through the discomforts that can arise when you endeavor to be friends with people who are different from you. This was hugely important for me because I was right when my world turned on its side with our move from Georgia to Iowa and my graduation to the status of “alien”. I knew very little about white culture and nothing of Midwest culture when we arrived and it made for a very challenging period of my life that profoundly shaped me and informed my way of viewing the world around me. The BSC helped me put some of that into context. I had a friend who had diabetes, a character in BSC had diabeties. I had a frame of reference to form and ask questions from because of BSC. I knew NOTHING about divorce or blended families, but BSC exposed me to some of that in a way that I could be sensitive in my inquiries and interactions with classmates living those realities.
I also LOVED how the BSC celebrated entrepreneurship by GIRLS! You didn’t see a lot of that reflected in young adult literature at the time. It was all swooning over the older guy and dreaming of being kissed for the first time and forbidden love (I was not ready to process VC Andrews when I first encountered those books in the PUBLIC LIBRARY btw) in most books which drove me into the classics like Margaret Walker Alexander’s Jubilee and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and every bit of Austen I could get my hands on.
Ann Martin showed young girls that it was okay to think for themselves. She showed us that it was okay to work together and support one another as young women in the building of our own personal and professional goals. I have always been driven by an entrepreneurial mindset. I also love building thing from ideas and partnerships to actual physical objects. This was not encouraged strongly by many of my teachers but thank God for the parents I have who helped me find ways of getting what I needed. It helped so much that I could also turn to the safety of the world Ann M. Martin created for little girls like me to learn and grow and consider.
Ann M. Martin showed us what girl power looks like and I will forever love her for that!
I gifted my entire BSC collection to a young girl years ago, but as I now accept the reality that 40 is no longer in my distant future, i think it might be time for me to reconstitute that beautiful piece of my childhood for my home library.
~ Marta C. Youngblood