2024 Student Research Conference:
37th Annual Student Research Conference

“All I Will Say is That I Became a Married Woman”: The Discourse of Sex and Intimacy Within Marriage in Scholastic’s Dear America Diaries 

Dalaney D. Widiger♦
Dr. Sarah Mohler, Faculty Mentor

This project explores the role of sex and intimacy in three novels of Scholastic’s Dear America series: Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie, Cannons at Dawn, and The Coal Miner’s Bride. In each diary, the protagonist or the friend marries at fourteen- or fifteen-years-old, making them outliers for their content in the series and yet they match many of the themes present throughout it: coming-of-age, historic girlhood, romance, roles for girls and women, and conflict with traditional values. This paper argues the discourse of sex, romance, and intimacy in Hattie’s, Abby’s, and Anetka’s diaries reflect the ambiguity of tween sexual knowledge through the use of codes and double entendres to imply and hide the meaning of the text. The diarists experience curiosity and gatekeeping of knowledge alongside the tween reader but the novels also disrupt the married adolescents character development to connect easier with the tween readers’ developmental stage.

Keywords: Middle School Literature, Historical Fiction, Girlhood Studies, Sex Education, Marriage, Sexual Discourse, Adolescent Development

Interdisciplinary Studies

Presentation Type: Oral Presentation

Session: 104-3
Location: SUB Georgian Room C
Time: 9:45

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♦ Indicates Truman Graduate Student
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