One of the things that brought Jen and myself together is our love of books that empower girls by having a female protagonist that is strong in every sense of the word. As a young girl, I wanted to see girls in my literature that showed me that I could be whatever I wanted to be. I found these girls in books starting with Matilda then The Baby-Sitter's Club, Charlotte Doyle, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I also searched for these woman in non-fiction books liked Prozac Nation and The Diary of Anne Frank. This love of stories that celebrates the ability of girls has continued into adulthood with my love of
Hurt Go Happy, Graceling, Shine, Uglies, and Airborn.
I am continually searching, finding, and sharing books that have these role models. I recently read a book Olivia Twisted by Vivi Barnes which is a modern retelling of Oliver Twist, but with a female protagonist and she embodies girl power. Here is Vivi sharing why these characters are so important in
literature and who has inspired her:
One of my favorite characteristics of young adult novels is the strength of the female protagonist. It’s not even a symbol of today’s times. Consider the strength of the girls in Little Women, the resolve of Jane Eyre, the sharp wit of Beatrice in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. These women set the framework for Katniss, Hermione, and so many other kick-butt heroines in today’s literature.
Though she certainly has her moments of strength, Bella from Twilight has arguably become synonymous with weakness. I know that my crit partners have slashed certain lines that sound “too Bella.” An author would be hard-pressed to get an agent or publisher interested in a female protagonist who can’t hold her own, who doesn’t stand strong in the face of adversity.
Sometimes a character appears weak until one delves into their motivations, which seems too often be family. It is the obvious strong character who is the outward challenger of society; but just as important is the woman who allows herself to be challenged in order to keep someone else safe. One of my favorite examples is Nancy from Oliver Twist. As the impoverished prostitute girlfriend of the terrible and abusive Bill Sykes, one could consider her weak until you consider how she betrayed her violent boyfriend and put her life at risk—and indeed was murdered—in her attempt to save the innocent Oliver and get him to his family. She was a person who fought in the end against the way society shaped her. I always admired Nancy, which is one of the reasons I turned her into the caring mother figure of the gang of hackers in Olivia Twisted. She epitomizes girl power in an unusual way!
Translating this to real life, I recently read an article in our newspaper about how Florida Atlantic University just promoted the cheerleading coach to director of football operations, not a role women typically hold. I was thrilled to see that the trail is being blazed for our future women leaders, and I’m pleased that literature continues the trend of creating strong female roles for our girls to emulate.
Go girl power!
It is so important that girls see these role models in real life as well as literature! Thank you Vivi for being part of our series! I have loved celebrating the power of woman with you all and
cannot wait to continue this series through next week!