Twilight saga appeals to many cultures

by Alicia Rudnicki, Library Mix

Shy, quiet Lizandy smiles at me sweetly and in halting sentences explains why she enjoys Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series so much despite its length and the struggle to read it in English. Edward is so romantic, she says, so perfect. She would like to be his girlfriend, Bella Swan.

I encourage her to keep reading, but it is the end of the school year, the classroom is too warm , and the cute boy sitting next to her is a distraction almost as tempting as Edward Cullen. Paolo says that he may have to read the Twilight novels as well, so he can understand what is making the chicas so crazy. Lizandy giggles and says it is too difficult to explain.

I am substitute teaching in an English-as-a-second-language class at a metro area high school. An acquaintance who teaches there full time tells me that Stephenie Meyer has made his literacy work easier, because so many students are motivated to read, discuss, and write about her books.

Many ages, many cultures
Meyer’s novels—Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn—-appeal to readers of many ages and cultures. Backlash against the novels also can be found within these boundaries, but the focus in this article is on the broad appeal of Meyer’s writing.

Example #1. A Northern California teacher of English as a second language enters a hopeful request at the website DonorsChoose.org for her 20 students who she describes as being from “high poverty” families.

Anyone who lives with a teacher probably knows that they spend a lot of their own money on classroom supplies. This teacher needs precisely $461 to purchase and ship “2 sets of Stephenie Meyer’s ‘Twilight’ series along with audio CDs and 4 CD players.”

Example #2. A Native American reader (the commenter) of Rob Schmidt’s online essay “Noble savages in Twilight” contradicts the negative viewpoint of another Native American (the source) who Schmidt quotes in his article. The source dislikes Meyer’s depiction of the Pacific Northwest Quileute tribe. (The source is female. There is no indication whether the commenter is male or female.)

The commenter is angered by the source’s opinion that Native Americans lead a “sad, sad life” and that this is not reflected accurately in Meyer’s work.

The commenter responds by writing that “I am an Oglala Lakota native from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. I have read the complete Twilight series and am living the ‘Native American life.’ Here is some insight on the place where I live. I live on the second largest reservation, population 46,000+, income less than $10,000 a year, the poorest county in the United States. If anyone has it hard, talk to my people. But this just pisses me off how this person can say this about my people. We are a proud nation and we don’t let the hardships get us down.”

Then the commenter leaps to Meyer’s defense saying that “most Natives I know love the books and aren’t offended….Yes, I am Native American and I am Team Edward. I’m not going to choose Jacob because he’s Native American.”

The significance of the last part of the commenter’s remark is that although he/she has “Native Pride,” it doesn’t get in the way of his/her preference for the very white vampire love interest (Edward) versus the heroine’s best friend Jacob, a handsome Quileute who also just happens to be a big, strong, snarling werewolf.

Example #3. Last April, after reading one of my articles,” Liane, a working mother, responded to the following question: “Are you a parent who can shed some light on your child’s vampirous reading habits?”

“No exaggeration,” Liane answered, “I have not read 10 books in the last 20 yrs (travel, work, kids, life, etc.) but I read the entire 4 book series in 3 & 1/2 days…. Now since I’ve gotten the books about a month ago, my oldest daughter 20 has read them and is, like me, excruatingly addicted!! And my son, 11 has also read them, all 4 but unlike my daughter and I who love the romantic story, my son is totally enthralled with the VAMPIRE and WEREWOLF part of the story!”

Example #4. One parody, which you can see on YouTube, indicates that lots of Asians are enjoying Twilight.

Example #5. Along with librarians, teachers are some of the best people on earth. They are clever and spot trends that lure students to learning like a moth to lamplight. If you google “Twilight lesson plans,” you will find lots of useful material. Heather Marie Kosur provides an ingenious social studies lesson plan connecting Twilight to Native American culture, mythology, and geography.

Another case in point is Brian Leaf’s SAT/ACT vocabulary study guide defining twilight which likely will earn good royalties for the author as well as get kids to consider interesting words such as “omnipresent” and “sauntered.” Leaf’s book is additional proof that Stephenie Meyer’s undergraduate degree in English paid off. (Are you reading, you liberal arts college student wannabes? Here’s an argument you can give to parents who, shudder, want you to become computer engineers.)

Example #6. When googling the phrase “Hispanic response to Twilight,” up popped a press release from Hispanic PR Wire about Walmart adding “Twilight Shops” in all its stores in 2008. No, this was not an April Fool’s press release. I checked Walmart and it was true. Hispanic PR Wire quoted a Walmart executive as saying that “Twilight is a cultural phenomenon that has gripped both teens and adults across the country.”

Not that I want to christen Walmart as some great cultural authority, but this quote reminds me of the scene from the movie Miracle on 49th Street in which the U.S. Post Service’s “dead letter” department proves that Santa exists since he receives so much mail.

The Walmart quote also inspires thoughts about cross-generational appeal and that leads to….

Example #7. Twilight moms. As most serious Twilight fans know, there is a website called “TwilightMOMS.” As to Twilight dads, please see my article “Why guys do and don’t like Twilight.”

There are numerous blogs and articles available online about why adult women, including grandmothers and busy working mothers, spend so much time on Twilight fan sites. These include Laura Miller’s June 2009 article in Salon.com titled “Touched by a vampire.”

Miller writes, in part, about the TwilightMOMS website. She notes that “it’s not only shy girls who crush mightily on Edward Cullen. One of the series’ most avid fan sites is Twilight Moms, created by and for grown women, many with families of their own. There, as in other forums, readers describe the effects of Meyer’s books using words like ‘obsession’ and ‘addiction.’ Chores, husbands and children go neglected, and the hours that aren’t spent reading and rereading the three novels are squandered on forums and fan fiction. ‘I have no desires to be part of the real world right now,’ posted one woman. ‘Nothing I was doing before holds any interest to me.’”

For a video spoof about a TwiMom, click here.

Example #8. Fortunately for the future of our nation, there are sensible yet voracious readers out there such as 15-year-old Sarra Said of Tucson, Arizona, who read the entire Twilight series (2,000-plus pages) in 26 days.

Last May, The Arizona Daily Star reported that Said, whose first language is Arabic, was honored by the Amphitheater School District of Tucson, Arizona, for her voluminous reading.

Said read “1,547,525 words, which amounts to more than 40 books, since October” as part of an Accelerated Reader (AR) program for English language learners. Anyone familiar with AR knows that you don’t get credit for reading a book until you pass the AR tests associated with it.

To prove Sarra’s sensibility, she isn’t languishing online hoping for more Team Edward stories. Instead, she has moved on to Gone With the Wind, which is more than 1,000 pages long.

According to reporter Andrea Rivera, “What’s so remarkable about Sarra’s love of books is that she couldn’t speak a word of English when she and her family arrived in Tucson almost two years ago from Tripoli, Libya.” And this leads back to…

Example #9. Lizandy. Remember her from the opening of  this article? It is a beautiful fact that Stephenie Meyer is encouraging English language learners to read. Finally…

Example #10. Resplendent in a white satin gown embroidered with red flowers and vines, one of the Puerto Rican princesses of Lorain, Ohio’s 2009 International Festival, strikes an elegant pose for a newspaper photographer.

At 17, Samaira is a wisp of a girl who has lovely café au lait skin and glistening black hair swept up into a French knot and crowned with a silvery tiara. She is proud of her background, which she describes as a “rich racial mixture of mulattos—whites and blacks” in her HispanicOhio.com profile.

When asked about her favorite book she says the Twilight series. Favorite movie: Twilight again. She isn’t a “Twihard” or a “Twihead” as popular slang would have it; she is a TwiPrincess. Take that all you naysayers, even royalty loves Twilight.

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