Today’s “Author Talk” with Daniel Barnhart… author of Messy Anne Meets the Monstrosity
You did all of this for your daughter?
D: I did it for everyone, but yes, my daughter was the “inciting incident” so to speak.
How did your daughter bring this about?
D: Both my wife and I were professional actors. We’d worked a lot with young people. We’d both done some teaching. We just felt that when the time came for children that we wanted to adopt because there were so many children in need of just love and acceptance. And after doing some research, we decided that it was important to adopt a girl.
Because of the media pressure on women?
D: To some extent, yes. But we also chose to adopt from another country. Our country has horrible adoption policies (for the child/family) unless you are very rich. But there are places in the world where women still don’t have rights. Where they can’t own property. Where they ARE property. I just looked at my wife—who had battled sexism, and who—as a very beautiful woman—had battled stereotypes all her life. And moreover…maybe even mostly…because my wife was unconventionally intelligent she had often been belittled or overlooked. I just thought that if we could make a difference in one life, it would be to raise a woman who had my wife’s strength and sense of self.
What do you mean, “unconventionally intelligent”?
D: Well, it’s not a 1 for 1 comparison…Messy vs. my wife. But look at what we consider “intelligence”. It’s all Math and Science. Even in the schools. And within business it’s all about corporate-speak and being one of the boys. I know because I’ve been there. Today they are starting to talk about “emotional IQ”, but I think it goes beyond that. Because my wife knew herself so well, had done “the hard work” as they say, she had exceptional insight into people and things. But that was often discarded or overlooked because it didn’t come in the proper vocabulary or the accepted form. When we worked together I used to tell people, “She may not be right about what’s wrong, but if she says there’s something wrong then there’s something wrong.” It’s because she could sense the truth of things, of people. The genuineness of something. If you look at our world, there’s a lot less need for Math and Science than there is for a sense of understanding and truthfulness and honesty and compassion. Unfortunately they don’t have test for that.
And you bring that to Messy?
D: That’s all too deep for a children’s book. I just try to include the spirit of what my wife was. Never taking anything at face value. Never accepting a view of herself that didn’t resonate with her own sense of truth. Adventure. Imagination.