Review 1596: Her Father’s Daughter

When I was a girl, I discovered some old Gene Stratton-Porter books of my mother’s, and I just loved them. Later, in high school, I had a job at the public library, so I resolved to read all of her books. However, one of those books put such a bad taste in my mouth that I stopped reading her.

Skip forward 50 years and I found an old copy of one of her books in good shape in a used bookstore, so I bought it. I finally got around to reading it, only to discover on the very first page that this was the same book that turned me off in the first place. How did it strike me now? You shall see.

Linda Strong is in the halls of high school in Los Angeles when she is accosted by an upperclassman, Donald Whiting, who asks her why she wears such odd shoes. She in turn raises an issue with him that I will address in a bit.

Linda is an independent girl who was brought up by her father exploring the desert environs of Southern California, learning how to identify and use plants and how to live in the wilderness. Her parents died four years ago, and she has been living with her older sister, Eileen, who has been systematically robbing Linda of her inheritance to pay for her own clothes and entertainment. Hence, Linda in high school makes a shabby, eccentric appearance, but her shoes are for comfort.

Eileen has also deprived her best friend, Marian, of her boyfriend, which she did as soon as John became successful. Marian is leaving for San Francisco, where she has a job in an architect’s office and has entered an architectural contest. But the plot takes a turn when John brings over an old friend, writer Peter Morrison, who is looking for a place to settle, and Henry Anderson, an architect.

This book is really almost all subplots. I was going to say that the main plot was the relationship between Linda and Eileen, but that plot goes into abeyance for quite some time. There is a romance of some uncertainty, of course, and a plot about a stolen drawing of Marian’s. But my objection to the novel mostly concerns Linda’s issue with Donald. For this novel contains a ridiculous, racist subplot about Japanese adults being sent to attend California high schools so that they can best the American students academically and make them feel inferior. It is one of the stupidest plots I have ever read, and the book is one of the most racist I have ever read, a blueprint to the thinking of white supremacists. Not only does Linda believe all kinds of paranoid things about the Japanese, but she lets others have it as well—African Americans, Mexicans, and Communists. I usually try not to judge books out of their time, but I’ve read plenty of books from this time period (1921), and this one is just despicable. All these horrible attitudes are expressed by an otherwise appealing heroine, which I think makes it worse. I am again disappointed in this author, who has written several really good books for young adults.

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9 thoughts on “Review 1596: Her Father’s Daughter

  1. piningforthewest December 31, 2020 / 3:35 pm

    I’ve read acouple of books by this author, not this one though. I had a similar reaction to a D.E. Stevenson book and her treatment of a Jewish character which was published in the 1960s, I haven’t read anything by her since, although I believe in later years it was edited out. This one sounds absolutely wild and definitely one to avoid.

    • whatmeread December 31, 2020 / 3:39 pm

      Oh, that’s too bad. I like D. E. Stevenson, and her books seems pretty harmless. If you want to read Gene Stratton-Porter at all, read Freckles, Girl of the Limberlost, or Laddy, A True Blue Story. Her characters are all a bit rough, but they are all about conquering adversity.

      • piningforthewest December 31, 2020 / 4:02 pm

        I’ve read the first two you mention but not Laddy. I’ll note it down.

      • whatmeread December 31, 2020 / 4:09 pm

        Actually, I think that was Laddie. It’s my favorite.

  2. Spring Texan December 31, 2020 / 6:50 pm

    I too remember being horrified and shocked when I read this book in high school. It’s a reminder of how fascism was, in real life, coupled with good things like love of nature. I do think it’s good not to let it ruin all of Gene Stratton-Porter’s other books, but it’s so incredibly terrible it’s hard not to. Thinking Japanese college graduates were attending California high schools is so insane it’s on a par with all the QAnon stuff today.

  3. ilovedays January 2, 2021 / 9:30 pm

    Fascinating. She wrote A Girl of the LImberlost, the favorite book of one of my aunts. There was so much white supremacist writing in the 20s. It was a time of much KKK activity in Texas and the South, and here in Texas even many prominent Dallas businessmen were members of the Klan. The other evening I watched a PBS special on the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder and learned that her daughter was a major writer for early Libertarian thinking, and also pretty much a co-writer of Wilder’s books, published in the 30s. There are white supremacist assumptions in those stories, as well, which makes them hard to teach nowadays.

    • whatmeread January 3, 2021 / 12:44 am

      That’s interesting. I actually only read one of hers when I was a girl. For some reason, I didn’t like her that much. I was mostly into mysteries and horse and dog stories then. You know, all the Black Stallion books and I can’t remember the dog books, and Trixie Belden.

      • ilovedays January 3, 2021 / 10:14 am

        Beautiful Joe was my favorite dog book. And I read the Donna Parker books. I wonder how those hold up to more enlightened times…I read Little Women over and over. At least Louisa May Alcott’s family were abolitionists.

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