Look at the shelf of beloved books that mothers and daughters read together. Anne of Green Gables. Betsy-Tacy. Ballet Shoes. The Secret Garden. Matilda. Harriet the Spy. Surely you notice what’s missing.
What would you change, if you could, about one of these books to make it more representative of your experience? What would you keep?
Andi Teran asked herself those questions about one of her childhood favorites, Anne of Green Gables. There is a lot to love about the book. Anne is a bold and spunky girl who makes things happen. She has inspired many young girls to do the same over the years. The book’s themes of family and belonging are still relevant today. But it is all so gentle and sweet in a way that modern readers might find fantastic. And the all-white world of the book doesn’t represent Teran’s Mexican-American heritage.
So she wrote her own version of the story. She kept the aspects of the original that resonated with her and changed what needed to be changed to reflect a world that isn’t safe or gentle with people. In a Q&A on the publisher’s web site, Teran shared her inspiration for her version of the story,
“I also wanted to delve into the psychological ramifications of what it’s like to be alone as a young person, with no family or familiars, and without stability for most of your life. I’ve spent time working in both a children’s shelter and a halfway house for teens. The stories I witnessed and heard still haunt me. It was important that Ana be a voice for many of the young people I met who had no voice or anyone who cared about their well being.”
That was how Anne turned into Ana, a Mexican-American teen whose foster care experiences in Los Angeles have led her to be more street-smart than Anne ever was. You’ll see shades of Anne as you read Ana’s story, but you’ll have to look for them. Ana is her own person, and Ana of California is its own story that stands alone from the classic on which it was based.
Perhaps Ana will inspire a new generation of girls to be bold and sensitive, to work hard and create their own families. Or perhaps Andi Teran will inspire young writers of color to create their own versions of classic novels. My hope is that both will happen.