Dec 9, 2020

We Can Do It! Strong Female Characters

From Emily Dickinson and Jane Austen to J.K. Rowling and Toni Morrison, women have been empowering the literary world for hundreds of years. While there is still a long way to go for the equal treatment of men and women in the publishing industry, we must also applaud the women who have fought to get there and pave a way for the future generations of all. 

For this blog post, I asked my coworkers in the Youth Services Department to send me a list of 3-5 female literary characters that they found strong and inspiring to them. Some of these characters have inspired each individual to be bold, to be empowering, and even our career choice of becoming librarians. Be sure to tell us your favorite female characters! 

Crystal, Young Adult Librarian:

Cinder, The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Crystal finds Cinder to be a strong and inspiring female character because Cinder led a multi-planetary revolution even though she was considered an outsider due to her cyborg status. 

Cath, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Crystal finds Cath to be a strong female character because Cath is an introverted bookworm who is used to living in the shadow of her twin sister, Wren. However, through her writing, new friends, and a deep sense of self, Cath begins to discover that her uniqueness from her sister isn’t a weakness but a strength. 

Alina Starkov, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Crystal considers Alina Starkov a strong female character because of how Alina is labeled as a saint and how beautifully Alina carries the weight that that title demands.

Kari, Youth Services Librarian:

Eleanor Douglas, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Eleanor reminds me so much of my high school self. She's plus sized, she has big, unruly hair, she dresses like a crazy cat lady, she's socially awkward, and she hates high school, especially gym class, because of the constant torment from her peers. Her home life is even worse because of her family's poverty and her abusive stepfather. Eleanor and Park have fundamentally different lives, but they still manage to fall in love. Eleanor is fiercely independent and intelligent. As she gets to know Park, she lets her guard down. Eleanor feels like a genuine, real person which is why I adore her so much.    

Raymie Nightingale,  Raymie Nightingale by Katie DiCamillo
It's 1975, and Raymie is trying to set her world right again. Her dad has run off with a dental hygienist (Raymie hilariously keeps saying "Hey, diddle, diddle, the dish ran away with the spoon" until her mother insists she stops) but she has a plan: She will win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, capture his attention by getting her picture in the paper, and bring him home. Louisiana, one of Raymie's friends, enters the competition because she is so impoverished that she needs the prize money to survive, and Beverly, Raymie's other close friend, was entered into the contest by her mother and finds the whole thing so ridiculous that she wants to sabotage it. All three girls are a little beat up by life, but they keep striving for friendship and happiness. Raymie particularly learns that you can't give up hope and you must find strength within yourself to keep taking on new adventures. She's witty, brave, and has a heart of gold.

Kate DiCamillo has been one of my favorite authors since I read Because of Winn Dixie in fourth grade. I got to hear her talk live in Chicago a few years ago, and she really is a wonderfully charming, insightful person. I remember her talking about how she procrastinated as a writer and just wore black turtlenecks because they made her look like an author. Then she realized she really needed to start writing everyday instead of just dressing like what she thought writers look like. DiCamillo doesn't shy away from the heavy stuff that kids really do encounter, and she writes in a way that treats kids with maturity and kindness.

Katie, Youth Services Librarian:

Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Katie considers Anne Shirley a strong female character  because Anne is smart, creative, headstrong, and true to herself. 

Melody Brooks, Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper
Katie considers Melody Brooks a strong female character because despite being unable to communicate with those in her surroundings, she carries on through her difficulties. Melody also strives to learn and make the best of her situation while also accepting the harsh realities of never really being accepted into society. 

Maggie, Youth Services Outreach Associate:

Hermione Granger, Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Maggie considers Hermione Granger to be a strong female character because Hermione Granger does not shy away from her immense knowledge to get others to like her; she embraces her intellect. In addition to that, she is a fierce and loyal friend who uses her strong moral compass, intellect, and tenacity to help those she loves. 

Camila Hassan, Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez
Maggie considers Camila Hassan to be a strong female character because she does not let others’ expectations of what she should do influence what she wants to do. She has also faced many struggles both internally and through external relationships but she still remains true to who she is and what she is passionate about. 

Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Elizabeth Bennet is one of the earliest literary examples of a strong female protagonist. Elizabeth does not conform to the expectations of being a proper 19th century woman. She is prideful, stubborn, courageous, and outspoken but she is also loyal and caring. She is the literal epitome of what most women are- Strong but also vulnerable, prideful but also caring, stubborn but also loyal.