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Author Information: Clemence McLaren

 
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Clemence McLaren writes:

When I was a sixth-grader, I used to read The Odyssey with a flashlight after I'd been sent to bed. I was fascinated when the women characters left their endless weaving to make brief appearances in the men's hall -- where all the action was -- but they had almost nothing to say. I always wondered how they felt about what was going on. Did Helen of Troy like having the world's most beautiful face? Did Penelope blame Helen for launching the great war? Why did Circe want to change men into pigs?

I suppose I began retelling these stories to answer my own questions, and, as a teacher and writer, I'm still at it. I'm working on a new novel about Achilles, the greatest warrior of the ancient world, and the most macho. As a kid I wanted to know why he didn't run away when his mother dressed him as a girl and hid among female cousins to escape the Trojan War. And what did the girls make of this strange new cousin? (My sixth-grade students assure me that the girls would have figured out he was a boy in less than a minute.)

My fascination with Greece began with that early reading, and I grew up to live out my dreams on a Greek island called Anghistri, where I studied the language, hiked the ancient goat trails, gazed at Homer's wine-dark seas, and met neighbors named Achilles and Nestor.

Now, like Odysseus, I've come home from my travels to the island of O'ahu in Hawai'i, an equally mythical place where I'm again studying the language and legends, and surprised at the parallels with Greek mythology. I'm still telling stories to my students, teaching them to listen for the silenced voices.

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