In this blog post series, we’ll feature contributing authors from our new anthology, Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes: The Little Women Legacy. Today we’ll catch up with Lorraine Tosiello, physician, writer, and lifelong Little Women aficionado.
Contributor Lorraine Tosiello reads Little Women under the watchful eye of her “neighbor,” the Empire State Building.
What is your favorite scene from Little Women?
For me, there’s no scene in the book that comes anywhere near the betrothal scene “under the umbrella” between Jo and Professor Bhaer. It is wise and sentimental, humorous and poignant, ridiculous and powerful all at once. Jo rushes downtown to find Friedrich, she finds him and he says he is leaving town, she stifles her emotions, he gets confused, they shop for everyone else but themselves, and she blubbers, “You are going away!” And then come my two favorite images in the whole book: Friedrich says that he has nothing to give but a full heart and “these empty hands,” which Jo immediately fills with her own hands and says, “Not empty now.” I wish that the last line of this chapter was the end of the book: “[T]hat was the crowning moment of both their lives, when, turning from the night and storm and loneliness, to the household light and warmth and peace waiting to receive them with a glad ‘Welcome Home,’ Jo led her lover in, and shut the door.”
If the March sisters were employed where you work, what would their jobs be?
I work at community health centers and March sisters are everywhere around me at my work. Meg would be the office manager, because she likes to keep things orderly in a womanly way. She would be industrious and keep an eye on the well-being of the other employees, while being a role model. Jo would be a nurse, of course, one who would really know her stuff. She might seem gruff to the patients at first, but they would find that she has a heart of gold. Beth would be the social worker. Her kindness and willingness to help others would serve her very well in that profession. I have known many Beths in that capacity. Amy would be the art therapist, naturally, a job that May Alcott actually performed at the asylum in Syracuse. But since most community health centers do not really have art therapists, Amy might be working in fund raising, because her charm and persuasive talents would be useful there.
Who are some of your other “imaginary heroes” from literature?
When I was a child, Anna Spyri’s Heidi and Anna Sewell’s Pollyanna were girls I loved: they were bold and also very, very good. Does anyone know who Heidi and Pollyanna are anymore? Jo March is my forever heroine. Then, there was Meg Murry from A Wrinkle in Time. She was bold and very, very smart. I have also returned time and again to Pierre and Natasha in War and Peace, perhaps because they stumble so much while they are trying to be good. And finally, Atticus Finch, who is sure of himself, unlike all the others I have listed, poised, brave and very, very good. Hmmmm, seems that I like my heroes to be good. No antiheroes for me.
Jo has both a writing space and a “scribbling suit” in the book. What does your writing space look like? What’s your favorite scribbling suit?
I have the good fortune to spend half of my time near the ocean. My best ideas come to me when I am walking in the sand. Scientists have confirmed that creative thinking improves when one is walking and shortly after. Louisa used to love to tramp and run, too. I don’t start out trying to compose or figure out a plot problem. As I walk, the wind, the sound of the surf, the sun, the lapping waves all combine to open my mind. There, thoughts and new ideas jumble around in my head a bit and when they seem to be close to what I would want to write, I stop and capture what I am thinking right there on my iPhone.
Lorraine Tosiello first read Little Women at age six and missed most of the pathos and substance, but could not miss the boisterous, large, forceful personality of Jo March. She wanted to be able to charge off to sweep the snow, talk to boys and make a mess of things just as she did. That pretty much never changed. She is a physician and has dedicated her entire life to the care of people with HIV infection. She has published some medical articles and a monograph, A History of the Medical Profession in Westfield, New Jersey. Since starting to work part time several years ago, she has been immersed in the work and times of Louisa May Alcott and is currently working on two historical fiction books about her.
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