Saturday, January 05, 2008


I first saw the "Did You Grow Up Privileged" Meme at E. Lockhart's blog. And while there are definitely some weaknesses to it, c'mon, it's a 31 Question meme. Given that, it's interesting.

And it relates to children's literature (and story) because it ties in to the discussion about poverty and class in literature; and I think how a person grew up affects many things that they never realize. I think that's why I look at books and movies and TV to not only be needed mirrors, but also needed windows, because the person who grows up thinking the way they grew up is the ONLY way; and all others are "less", grows up very narrow. And that is dangerous.

At the same time, whenever I do think of poverty/class lit, I also fear the danger voiced in the song Common People: the person who views poverty as some type of place to visit because "you think being poor is cool." (For the record: I adore William Shatner's cover of this song. Seriously.)


Time for the meme:
From What Privileges Do You Have?, based on an exercise about class and privilege developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University. If you participate in this blog game, they ask that you PLEASE acknowledge their copyright.

(note from Liz: like others, I'm commenting on the statements, using italics. . So, this is probably a bit different from the original meme.)

Bold the true statements.

1. Father went to college

2. Father finished college (and grad school)
Actually, I am not sure about grad school. He may have.

3. Mother went to college

4. Mother finished college (and grad school)
Here is one of those examples where, due to the limitations of the meme, it's not very nuanced. My mother dropped out of college when she got married; which meant that when my sister and I were little, she was balancing being married, a mother of two small children, working a job at night to help pay tuition, going to school part time, and also teaching full time at a local Catholic school that so needed teachers that it was OK she didn't have her degree, yet.

5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor.
I believe there is second cousin or some such who graduated law school a semester or two before me; and there are those who did so after me. But in terms of growing up, did I have or know of family with these degrees? Nope.

6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers.
Probably "same". Definitely not higher. But I'm not sure, especially since we had some financial reversals around this time.

7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home.

8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home.

9. Were read children's books by a parent.

10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18.
Not nuanced enough. As a child, I had a summer of swimming lessons; around 8th grade or so, a year or two of art lessons; and, depending on where we lived, took advantage of summer rec programs such as pottery, etc. Music lessons? No; because having or renting an instrument was too expensive (that was what my mother said when I asked for them.) My sister had ballet lessons, and I know it was a sacrifice. And ended for financial reasons, not because my sister lost interest.

11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18.
While answering yes, I think this is not nuanced enough; that I had swimming lessons at age six and art lessons from ages 11 to 13 hardly is the same as a child who each year has swimming, piano, dance, etc.

12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively.
I'm trying to remember this as a child; has the "Jersey accent" always been mocked? With the whole big hair thing? Yep; but as I never had that accent or that hair I wouldn't say "like me." Ditto for the often ridiculous and sometimes insulting portrayals of Irish Americans, Italian Americans, and Catholics.

13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18.

14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs.
Scholarships and loans which I am still paying off. If I were doing this meme, I would also add a bit about parents giving money towards a home purchase. Because these two factors are not just about how one grew up, but one's current lifestyle, and what one can give to their own kids. Why? Because it's about the amount of debt one is carrying. Put two people in the same job, one who has no college/school debt and a down payment from their parents, and who is paying college debt and rent so cannot save for a down payment and cannot expect that from their parents, and you see the consequences beyond one's own childhood.

15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs.

16. Went to a private high school.
I went to Catholic high school. Which is not quite the same as private high school. As an aside, both my sister and I went to Catholic grammar schools for part of our K-8 schooling; at one point, the sacrifice my mother made to meet tuition was moving in with her parents and living with them.

17. Went to summer camp.
For three years I went to a one week long sleepaway Girl Scout camp. Fun, yes; but not some summer long expensive thing.

18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18.

19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels.
One thing my mother valued was vacations, and being together as a family. Plus, financially, some things changed upon her remarriage. So, from the time I was about 5 to 13, my mother, sister, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins went to Myrtle Beach, staying at an inexpensive motel, one block from the beach, several people to a room. My grandparents took me to Ireland when I was about 12; we stayed with family or in B&Bs. For my stepfather's business trips, we went to Disneyworld.

20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18.
Some new, as I was the oldest; but others were handmedowns from older relatives.

21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them.
Hell no. Bought my own car. However, the family attitude, and mine still, is better to buy a new car than someone else's problem, so I have always bought new and once the repair/upkeep exceeds what a car payment would be, buy another one. New.

22. There was original art in your house when you were a child.
For some reason, this makes me giggle.

23. You and your family lived in a single-family house.
I moved 13 times in my first 18 years; at times living in apartments, rented homes, rented condominiums, and grandparents. Looking at it averaged out, most often I lived in a single family house.

24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home.
Not nuanced enough. For the years we rented, I can tell you that other kids (even those who are friends) are bastards. Often told, even by friends, that it wasn't my real house because we didn't own it. (The things that were said about my mother being divorced? Such as of course someone would think twice about marrying me because of the bad example? Another meme. But still, being the single working woman renting in a neighborhood of SAHMs? Not pretty.) We owned one home for a year when I was in 8th grade, thanks to my mother's remarriage, but for family reasons (the death of my grandfather) sold that home and moved in with my grandmother; a new home was bought right before I left for college.

25. You had your own room as a child.
It depended on the place we lived at the time; I'd say more than half the time my sister and I shared. During high school, we shared.

26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18.

27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course
Wow, this is a big one. I grew up thinking these courses were for kids who needed it; didn't realize the game was you took it to make a good score better.

28. Had your own TV in your room in high school.
Nope. And I am a firm believer that TVs do not belong in kids bedrooms. But I think I'll save that for a "how to watch TV" post.

29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college

30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16

31. Went on a cruise with your family
In college, we (and another family) rented sailboats as a vacation. But that was after 18.

32. Went on more than one cruise with your family

33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up.
Part of the benefit of living close to cities like Philadelphia and NYC; and part from a divorced Dad looking for things to do on weekends.

34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family.
Again, not nuanced enough. Unaware of heating bills. But aware that at one point we needed to move in with grandparents because of finances; aware of how much clothes and shoes and coats cost; aware of how much food cost.

So that is 17.

Bringing it back to books for kids and teens. In the books I read, sometimes people lived in apartments but more often they lived in homes. That the family owned. I cannot recall reading about renters. Even now, the default, I believe, is a family living in home it owns; oh, sometimes it's "the city" and apartments, but how often is it apartments in the suburbs? Or a renter?


Rosepixie said...

"Even now, the default, I believe, is a family living in home it owns; oh, sometimes it's "the city" and apartments, but how often is it apartments in the suburbs? Or a renter?"

I totally agree with you, except that in my experience with children's books the likelihood that the family is in an apartment and/or renting goes up by a lot if the family isn't white. Which is really sad.

That was an interesting blog exercise, but it was definitely not nuanced enough.

Katie said...

Liz - I'm interested in how you transitioned from being a lawyer to a librarian. I'm considering the same change and would love it if you could point me to some posts or blogs that helped you with the decision. Also, I love your blog, thanks for writing it. I've picked up a lot of great book suggestions from you.

TadMack said...

This is still making my head sort of swimmy; I think 'privilege' is definitely something that is a matter of opinion.

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