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Ann Brashares was born in Alexandria, Virginia,
in the late 1960s (the exact date has not
been made public). She grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland, with three brothers.
She attended Sidwell Friends, a Quaker school in Washington, D.C.
Always a thoughtful child, she studied philosophy at Barnard College,
where she met Jacob Collins, a painter who would become her husband.
After graduating in 1989, she began working
as a children’s book editor in New York City, where she often wrote
nonfiction books when she couldn’t find another author to do it.
Her nonfiction publications include Linus Torvalds: Software
Rebel (2001) and Steve Jobs:
Thinks Different (2001). She worked
as an editor for more than ten years.
Brashares got the idea for The Sisterhood of the
Traveling Pants while she was co-president of Alloy Entertainment,
a book packager focused mainly on children’s and young adult fiction.
Her coworker, an editor named Jodi Anderson, told Brashares stories
about sharing a pair of pants with her girlfriends when she was
a teenager. The path of the idea from Anderson to Brashares is murky,
and two sides of the story exist. One story alleges that Brashares,
who had always wanted to be a writer and always had a rich imagination,
began spinning the tale around in her mind. With Anderson’s agreement, Brashares
created a storyline and characters, ultimately selling the proposal
and writing the book herself. The other story contends that Anderson
created the proposal, believing that she would author the book,
only to have the proposal accepted and another writer—Brashares—selected.
In the world of book packaging, stories are often thought up by
more than one person. Some or all of these people then write an
outline and develop the characters, and the book itself is usually
written by someone else entirely. In interviews, Brashares adheres
to the first explanation of how she came to author Traveling
Pants. But according to an article in the New York Observer in
May 2006, the second explanation is actually
what happened. Although the conflict hasn’t had an effect on the
popularity and fame of the series or Brashares, it shows the often-complicated
way that young adult novels are created, written, and published.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was
an immediate success upon publication. The “magic” pants, the girls’
enviable friendship, the characters’ unique personalities and family
situations, and Brashares’s pitch-perfect rendering of teenagers’
experiences and feelings touched readers and critics, and the novel
wound up on the New York Times bestseller list.
The American Library Association put it on its Top 10 list
of books for young adults, and it was second on the children’s book
list in Publishers Weekly. In 2002,
it won the Book Sense Book of the Year Award for children’s literature.
In 2005, The Sisterhood of the Traveling
Pants was made into a movie directed by Ken Kwapis, starring
Alexis Bledel (of Gilmore Girls fame), America
Ferrara, Blake Lively, and Amber Tamblyn.
The remarkable success of The Sisterhood of the
Traveling Pants and the variety of issues it addresses,
including sexuality, friendship, and growing up, have led Brashares
to be compared with Judy Blume, another best-selling young-adult
fiction writer whose novels address sensitive issues connected with
girls’ experiences of adolescence. The novel’s success has also
been compared to that of the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling,
since both Brashares and Rowling have managed to capture the interest
of children and adults alike.
Brashares claims that she did not base the girls on her
own friends, although she admits that the characters are composites
of people she knows. She relates most to Carmen, who is Catholic,
like Brashares, and whose parents, like Brashares’s, are divorced. Brashares,
who set large chunks of the novel in Baja California, Mexico, and
Oia, Greece, never visited those places before writing about them.
Instead, she did research, looked at pictures, and imagined them
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is
the first in a series of four books written by Brashares that follows
Carmen, Tibby, Lena, and Bridget through the summers of their friendship: The
Second Summer of the Sisterhood (2003), Girls
in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood (2005),
and Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood (2007).
Brashares is also the author of a novel for adults, The
Girl of Lost Things (2006). She
lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, two sons, and a daughter.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants!