Happy (Belated) International Women’s Day!
Growing up I hated all things pink. As the only girl on the boys ice hockey team, I just wanted to fit in. I despised being the outcast. And then, in middle school, I finally had a teammate who was also a girl. Lo and behold, she loved pink! I didn’t get it, for years really, but I began to realize that I didn’t have to forgo my femininity to still be tough and rough and keep up with all the boys. Today, I am once again, as my male coworkers say, the ‘token female’, the only lady in our group at work. This time however, I am proud of that fact. I love it and embrace it. So, while pink is still not quite my favorite color I don’t hate it. The older I get the more I have come to appreciate how awesome women can be and how underrepresented such women are, even in good ol’ books. So, when I do come across strong, well-rounded female characters, I rejoice and make a mental note to NEVER forget them. In honor of International Women’s Day, I thought I would take a small break from my book challenge writings to share some of my favorite woman characters.
Hermione Granger from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling:
I can’t not start with Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter universe. In fact, I could probably write an entire novel myself on how amazing she is.
J.K Rowling, a real life, strong female role model, does such a fantastic job with Hermione. What I love the most though is how relatable Hermione can be. While she is way smarter than the average person, she is also so incredibly human. Rowling manages to balance her exceptional traits with being an otherwise normal teenage girl, showing her losing control and being emotional. Hermione isn’t just some alien brainiac. Young girls can look up to her and not feel like her success is unobtainable. For me, one of the defining characteristics of a strong, well-rounded female character is how well not just myself can relate, but also how younger generations of girls will relate to the character as they grow. Hermione does just this. She evolves and grows throughout the series into an incredibly successful adult with a career and a family. Women of all generations can look up to her and how she manages to embrace her identity as an intelligent, driven, and human woman.
Ella from Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine:
Around middle school I discovered I could not sing on key despite how hard I worked. Nor was I particularly skilled at dancing or any other respectable traits that were common to the typical Disney Princesses that I idolized growing up.So when I read
Ella Enchanted, it quickly became a favorite and remains, to this day, a book I will read over and over and over. The book is basically a retelling of Cinderella but Ella, the main character, is nothing like Cinderella. For one, she can’t sing or dance very well, which was an immediate draw for my young self. From the get go Ella takes control of her own destiny despite having a curse on her. She does everything from just surviving the cruelty of finishing school girls to fighting off ogres and traveling the country solo. She is the twist on the classic Disney Princess that I was searching for way back when and I still adore and admire her to this day.
Isabelle from The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah:
Vianne and Isabelle are sisters living in occupied France during World War II but each have very different experiences throughout the war. Both are incredible. As a historical fiction novel it is inspired by real people, specifically real women, who lived during the war. While both sisters have incredible strength,
I was struck most by the story of Isabelle. A young, single eighteen-year-old woman, she chooses to join the Resistance against the Nazis. Her resilience is remarkable as she constantly puts her life at risk to not only resist the Nazi regime but to also save others again and again. What is most inspiring to me about Isabelle is that although she is fictional, her character is based off of real historical figures. We hear countless stories of WWII heroics and while I never want to take away from those, I would love to hear more about the heroics of the many women who stayed behind and did what had to be done to resist and survive. WWII would not have been won without such amazing women fighting in the background. Isabelle and Vianne are great characters to remind us of that and show that while women may not fight on the front lines, they definitely do not shy away from the dangers of war and they have much more strength than they are given credit for.
Alanna Trebond from The Song of the Lioness Series by Tamora Pierce:
If you have not read Tamora Pierce, I would highly highly recommend it. Every single one of her books has female characters shattering the glass ceiling over and over. Of them all though, I hold Alanna Trebond closest to my heart. Based in a medieval world, Alanna Trebond is a girl who wants to become a knight, something that just is not done.
Well, she doesn’t care what the establishment says. She doesn’t want to go to some silly finishing school just to get married off to some noble.So, instead, she takes control, switches places with her brother, and pretends to be a boy for a remarkable eight years. It is amazing. She may be the smallest ‘boy’ but she is definitely the fiercest and most determined. Throughout the novels she grows up and embraces who she is, as both a knight of the realm and as a woman. As a young girl myself participating in sports where I was one of very few females, Alanna was the perfect character that I could have come across. Nothing, from difficult work to societal expectations, can stop Alanna. She truly becomes the change she wants to see in the world.
I could go on and on. Nothing gets me quite as excited as seeing amazing women represented in literature. I realize the majority of these books would be considered both fantasy and young adult. Growing up, all I read was fantasy so these stories really stuck with me and helped shaped who I am today as a woman. They are characters I continue to resonant with and am constantly returning to nearly every year. Fear not though, I will definitely come back and reflect on more fabulous characters that I adore. Strong female representation is so important to me especially since I know I would not be where I am without having some incredible women to look up to.
Back to reading!