Saturday, March 30, 2013

Girl Power - Maria Selke

Last week, we announced that we are doing a Girl Power! series on strong female characters in literature. We've asked a handful of the world's awesome and talented individuals to share their perspectives on girls in books. This week, we welcome Maria Selke from Maria's Melange.

“I try to write parts for women that are 
as complicated and interesting as women actually are.”
-Nora Ephron

When we talk about strong girls in literature, most often we mean heroines. The girls who take up a sword, or a pen, or a bow and change the world for the better. The women who take on traditionally masculine roles and don’t care what anyone else thinks about it. The women who save the world, save each other, and never wait for a prince to sweep in and save the day. Having those faces in our literature, movies, and on television are a vital step to helping today’s children accept that leading roles are for everyone.

How will we know that there is true equality in the media? We’ll have those women as leaders, of course. We’ll have them and we won’t even need to talk about it anymore. Yet is it enough to shine the spotlight on heroines?

Women are half the population of this amazing world, and we are so much more than just heroines. We are winners and losers. We are leaders and followers. We are heroes and villains. We are plagued by doubt as often as we are self-confident. We deserve to be seen as well crafted antagonists, too. The letter at the end of The Breakfast Club could just as easily be written about women as a whole..

“You see us as you want to see us... In the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. 
But what we found out is that each one of us is ... a brain...
Andrew Clark: ...and an athlete...
Allison Reynolds: ...and a basket case...
Claire Standish: ...a princess...
John Bender: ...and a criminal...
Brian Johnson: Does that answer your question?
Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.”

Bad Girls by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple
Published February 1st 2013 by Charlesbridge Publishing
Jane Yolen has written some of my favorite strong girls stories for every age and in every genre. So when I spotted Bad Girls, a new nonfiction book by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple, I knew it would hit the spot. In it, we are treated to chapters about a wide variety of real women in history who have gotten a bad rap over the years. After we learn about each life, Jane and Heidi debate whether or not the woman was truly “bad”. I loved the way Jane Yolen pushed for them to consider the context of the woman’s life when they were considering how to evaluate her choices. This is exactly the lesson I hope my students discover any time we discuss historical events in my classroom.

Women, like all people, have a complicated set of motivations and desires. I hope we continue to get more strong heroines in our literature, as these role models are  important for both boys and girls to see. Yet I hope we see equal measures of well crafted women as antagonists. Show us in all our glory and complexity. Show us real women - all kinds of women.

Don’t miss this interview with Jane and Heidi about Bad Girls:

A big Teach Mentor Texts thank you to Maria for sharing her thoughts about girls in literature with us today! Check back next week to hear from Kirby Larson, author of Hattie Ever After

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