14th Birthday Gift for My Niece

After going back and forth regarding age appropriateness, I went ahead and got Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood for my niece for her 14th birthday. I mainly wanted to share “My Last Duchess” which was my favorite story in the collection. So I sent her the book accompanied with a letter which I’ll share here (slightly abridged):

Let me tell you, first, that I had a lot of fun reading books with you, like Witches Don’t Do Backflips and Otherwise Known As Sheila the Great. I admit, as you maybe didn’t know then but would guess now, that those aren’t books I would have read on my own, but I loved reading them along with you. As you find new books you love, let me know, I love getting book recommendations!

The book I’m sending you for your birthday is one I just recently read called Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood. She’s one of my new favorite authors. The book is a collection of connected short stories, that means each story can be read on its own, but they follow the same character getting older, so it’s like a novel but not quite. This means you don’t have to read it from the beginning, though of course you can. The reason I’m getting it for you is because I especially thought you might enjoy the fourth story, called My Last Duchess.

The story is about a girl a little older than you are now. She is in school, and for her English class they are analyzing a poem, also called My Last Duchess. This is a real poem by Robert Browning. If you enjoy the story you might feel like trying the poem.

In the story, the girl is studying the poem and thinking about what it means. She listens to what her teacher says about the poem, but she also has her own thoughts about it. She is helping a boy she is dating study the poem. So he also has his ideas about the poem. As she is considering these different perspectives on the poem, she is also thinking about her life and figuring that out.

Then you think, Hey, while I’m reading this story about a girl figuring out a poem and her life at the same time, I’m figuring out this story and my life at the same time. How neat! (Because I’m forty and still figuring my life out because there are always new things to learn.)

Please keep this letter with the book which should arrive soon. Tuck it into the page where My Last Duchess begins, but please do me a favor, only read the story IF and WHEN you feel like reading it. School and your mom and dad have an important job to sometimes make you read certain things, and your important job is to listen to your teachers and parents and follow those assignments. Uncle Greg doesn’t have that job. He sends you things you might enjoy or you might not enjoy. So follow your interest and trust it.

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