Literary Ladies #7: Francie Nolan

Literary Ladies is my weekly series where I nerd out for a bit & imagine my favorite literary heroines into the modern world. Email me your suggestions or leave a comment below!

It’s been since January that I’ve posted a new Literary Ladies column, so I figured it was about time to log into polyvore & get my nerd on.

While in New York, I got to thinking about how the world of Francie Nolan (from Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) intersects with the world of urban teenagers today. Her family lives paycheck to uncertain paycheck, her parents uneducated but hard-working, and her charismatic & unpredictable father is an oft-absent alcoholic. Francie places more emphasis on her education than her parents do; as a teacher, I think it’s unfortunately often in modern times that parents place more emphasis on education than the child. Francie could teach an important lesson, if used in the context of today’s economic & political situations. What is unique about Francie is her pre-feminist understanding that her education was not for education’s sake alone, but moreover for the collateral it provided her, & the chance to move beyond the Brooklyn tenement of a childhood spent dreaming of being more. These trials of life are timeless & classless, for wealthy children endure the same social and family hardships as poorer ones.

In 2009, Francie Nolan’s classic TGiB characteristics– fair-haired & skinned, sensitive, studious & extremely hardworking academically– casting a Disney pop princess to such a poignant character would be a bit disingenuous. She’s the type of girl clever enough to manoeuvre through the red tape of public school & acquire a spot in a better, more competitive one– so there’s no way you could convince me to cast anyone but Abigail Breslin in the role:

There is also no way you can convince me she’d be anything but dripping with personal style:

francie nolan

Being from the city, I picture whimsical, practical staples like dressy shorts and a fitted camisole, covered up with a handmade shawl. Walking (skating? should 2009 Francie use a skateboard?) everywhere means comfy shoes, so a pair of trendy, sturdy & inexpensive sneakers are a must. In the novel, Francie is constantly sketching, doodling, writing, dreaming, drawing in her journal– it’s only appropriate to keep her well-equipped with blank paper & a plethora of pencils. Francie in 2009 would be deep into the vintage jewelry market, adorning her skinny arms with acrylic & brass bangles, floral clips, and long silver chains. Her leather handbag would be overflowing with scraps of paper, receipts, an over-full wallet crammed with everything from a library card to an expired coupon for New York & Company– and with a two-pound lake of pennies pooling in the darkest recesses of the lining. Francie cleans her purse at CoinStar & writes poems on the backs of library book inserts, hoping she makes a sweet lonely boy fall in love with her marginalia.


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2 Responses to “Literary Ladies #7: Francie Nolan”

  1. Literary Ladies #8: Scarlett O’Hara « new england noir Says:

    […] Ladies #8: Scarlett O’Hara By newenglandnoir Literary Ladies is my weekly series where I nerd out for a bit & imagine my favorite literary heroines into the […]

  2. Wherein I admit that I like seeing my stats be higher than normal « new england noir Says:

    […] posted of all my rambling: Literary Ladies. (You can see some old Literary Ladies posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. The very very first is […]

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