M is for McGraw

When I was younger, I became enamored with Ancient Egypt. I adored Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (I knew all the songs and could sing them, tunelessly, as I wandered about the house) plus Joseph and His Brothers, the video put out by the Genesis Project. At one point, I think I even tried to read Joseph Mann's Joseph in Egypt (I gave up).

Regarding books, I naturally read Zilpha Keatly Snyder's The Egypt Game. Like the girls in the story, I researched hieroglyphs and wrote out a kind of Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. During this time period, for Christmas, my sister Ann gave me a cosmetic kit of Ancient Egypt--I still own the perfume.

I also read and very much enjoyed a book that is difficult to find now:  Lost Queen of Egypt by Lucille Morrison, a book I must have read two or three times. It tells the story of Ankhesenamen, the daughter of Akhetaten and Nefertiti, who married Tutankhamun and may or may not have vanished after his death (which, according to current investigations, was likely not a murder but still could have been).

Another influence was Mary Stoltz's Cat in the Mirror in which a modern teen experiences her past life as an Egyptian maiden. Like with many of Stoltz's protagonists, the experience allows her to tackle a teenage problem in her personal, contemporary life. When I was in sixth grade, a fellow student reported on this book for an assignment. She created a diorama in a box--one side of the box was the girl's modern bedroom; the other side was the girl's Ancient Egyptian bedroom. I can still see it in my head! 

My biggest literary influence was Mara: Daughter of the Nile by Eloise McGraw. I wish I could say it was McGraw herself--that is, I was captivated by her writing. But this is one of those cases where the subject matter drew me as much as the writing. Mara is the only book of McGraw's that I have read.

Mara is a slave who is recruited to be a spy for a young man who is trying to help Thutmose III oust Hatshephut from the throne (in reality, Hatshephut ruled successfully for 20 years--her reign was prosperous and free from excessive wars; she died of natural causes). The spy/thriller elements of the story are well-told. Mara's growth from understandably self-serving to passionately dedicated is believable. And there's a romance! I have loved reading romances all my life.

My Dungeons & Dragons friends could have the medieval time period, what with the cold and the rats and the diseases and bad plumbing. I'd take Ancient Egypt. It seemed so . . . civilized--despite the spies and angry priests, possible murders and crazy kings . . .

No comments: