Jacqueline Wilson inspired a young generation of female readers
She taught us about love, loss and independence
Reading Jacqueline Wilson’s novels as a young girl taught me the power of the feminist icon in literature.
Even if you have never read any of her work, you will recognise the illustrations on the covers of Wilson’s novels or in the cartoonist interjections in ‘The Story of Tracy Beaker’. She’s a childhood icon for our generation and encouraged so many girls to pick up a book and become passionate about reading, while teaching us to come to terms with issues that all girls inevitably face, as well as those which seem like distant, grown-up problems.
Having married her husband at the age of 19, Wilson was able to use to her own experience of young love in her novels, teaching her female readers that love can strike at any time, and that it’s not always a fairytale ending. The marriage ended in divorce after 39 years, after having one daughter, providing the author with a wealth of experience in the trials of married life and motherhood which shine through in her writing.
She left school at 16 to start her career early, starting girls’ magazine, Jackie, at the age of 17. However, she still understands the stress of education for young people, after going to complete her English A-level at the age of 40, in which she obviously got an A. She is also the chancellor at the University of Roehampton, continuing her path in aiding the learning of today’s youth.
Her popularity manifests itself in her title as most borrowed author from British libraries from 2002-2008. I can remember trips to the library in the school holidays as a kid, picking out a whole host of Wilson novels to take home and plough through in a matter of days. It’s not surprising that she held this title for such a long period of time when there was always a rush to get hold of a copy of a new release from our favourite author before the hoards of budding young feminists and writers swiped them all from the shelves.
The Tracy Beaker series is obviously the most famous of Jacqueline Wilson’s works, but due its having been televised, it is remembered more for the girl with the iconic curly black hair pretending to have hay fever while crying by the window of the dumping ground, than for the literary impact that it had on the readers of our generation.
The book which really resonated in my young mind was The Diamond Girls. I had the hardback copy, as I begged for it to be bought for me as soon as it was published and must have read it about four times without putting it down in-between. It is about four sisters, all with different fathers, and their mother who live together in a council flat. They have to move to a larger council house to accommodate for a fifth child, which complicates the dynamic of the all-female family.
The narrator, Dixie, has to deal with the complex realisation that her mother has lied about the sex of the new baby, meanwhile helping their new neighbour who is being abused by her depressed mother. It is a lot to deal with for a girl of 10, and hearing the story told in her voice enables the reader to experience these grown-up themes through immature eyes.
This is one of Jacqueline Wilson’s most hard-hitting and mature novels, as it deals with themes that are tough for women of all ages to consider. Reading about a young girl dealing with such a difficult family life teaches young girls about the hardships that they will encounter as they grow up. Each of the sisters is strong in her own way, proving to the readers that we all have the strength to deal with the hardest of situations with the help of the women around you. What a message for the future feminist community.
I honestly think that reading Jacqueline Wilson as a child is what gave me a passion for literature in my life, while shaping my views of what it means to be a strong woman in today’s society. She taught me that it’s good to be an individual and that there aren’t any real rules for how to dress or behave like a girl: being strong when life throws adversity your way, that’s a Wilson girl.