Daring to Dream – fiction and reality

“I want to make a toast, please. To the women in my life. My mother, who’s shown that love makes a marriage bloom. My friend,” she said, turning to Ann, “who always, always listened. And my sisters, who gave me the best of families. I love you all so much.”
Eighteen-year-old Laura, just before her wedding ceremony, from Daring To Dream, by Nora Roberts

“Late last week, Nora learned from PEN America that a number of her books were banned from school libraries in Martin County, Florida.”
From Nora Roberts’ blog, Fall Into The Story, The state of the world of books

One of the banned books is Daring to Dream, a romantic tale about three young women, Laura, Kate and Margo, each having a childhood dream. Born with a silver spoon, Laura’s aspiration in life is to start a family while her husband works at her parents’ hotel business. Adopted Kate “could discuss, happily, interest rates and capital gains with Mr. T. for hours.” Skipping a grade in high-school, Kate is heading to Harvard University at seventeen. Margo is the daughter of the family’s housekeeper. After graduating from high-school, she refuses to depend on her mother’s employers charity and goes to L.A. to get a job. Daring to Dream – and the next two books in the trilogy, Holding the Dream and Finding the Dream – follow the three best friends as they try to realize their aspirations and find both personal and professional fulfillment.

I read these books years ago and I still keep paperbacks at home. They are comforting and inspiring tales about young women following their dreams despite obstacles, about the power of friendship and loyalty to help one when she is down on her luck. It is hard to imagine less objectionable books.

So why the heck were these feel-good tales banned as pornography?

I cannot imagine any modern American woman more old-fashioned than Laura, a homemaker and devoted mother, whose life revolves around charities and driving her daughters to recitals and ballet lessons and whatnot. Career-obsessed Kate is more threatening as she is financially and emotionally independent, yet I believe that the culprit is the beautiful and often headless Margo. Unlike Laura, who waited to have sex until the wedding night, Margo is more free spirited. As Margo’s modeling career took off in Europe, she had a sexual relationship (not depicted in the book) with a married man. Was this the reason the book was banned from high school libraries? In the novel, the affair ruined Margo’s career and forced her to do serious soul-searching. That led her to a change of career and to a monogamous relationship with a man she knew and trusted from childhood. Since it’s a Nora Roberts romance it is easily to guess how the story ends – a marriage and later also an adorable baby. In real life, a sexual relationship with a married man did not disqualify a woman from becoming a First Lady, nor, in a more recent example, a Queen of Great Britain.

As Lord Byron had said in Don Juan almost two centuries ago:

‘T is strange — but true; for truth is always strange;
Stranger than fiction; if it could be told,
How much would novels gain by the exchange!

A final note. Daring To Dream was published in 1996. In 2023, some of the characters and their choices may not resonate with readers used to different outlooks and conventions. Personally, I like the book and recommend it without reservations as an uplifting and uncomplicated romantic tale. Regardless of whether the story will appeal to teenage girls, there is no justification to deprive the ones who depend on school libraries from access to these books.
The girls have no voice, but parents can demand that their daughters receive a decent education, and that includes access to books that encourage girls to follow their dreams.

Nora Roberts' banned books
Nora Roberts’ banned books – image from Nora’s blog Fall into the story

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