As she said in her moving and gracious acceptance speech after losing the election: “And to all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”
While Clinton shuffles off into the twilight, having narrowly missed out shattering “that highest and hardest glass ceiling”, she added that she was sure that some woman, sooner rather than later, would succeed where she failed.
“Always aim high, work hard, and care deeply about what you believe in. And when you stumble, keep faith. And, when you’re knocked down, get right back up and never listen to anyone who says you can’t or shouldn’t go on.”
Be What You Want to Be
These themes were underlined by a list recently compiled for the Guardian newspaper by authors of young adult fiction, Sarah Alderson and Maria Turtschaninoff — who grew up reading about strong, brave, scared, feisty girls.
To them, a literary feminist hero is a girl who gets to be anything she wants. She’s not just strong and brave; she’s a well-rounded person with real assets and flaws who makes her own choices good or bad. Her story does not revolve around a man and his wishes.
Using the Guardian lists we paraphrase information about young feminists residing on our shelves.
Of course all female children should cut their feminist teeth on Pippi Longstockings, the unassuming, small-town, Swedish super-hero in the series by Astrid Lindgren. Pre-teen Pippi defies authority, lives by herself and lifts horses in her quest for nonconformist freedom. Her loyalty to her friends is legendary.
After Pippi they could follow the same author’s hero Ronia in Ronia the Robber’s Daughter. Ronia has her own individual sense of morality and stands up to patriarchal authority even when it means living in isolation. In the end she helps the robbers to make other lifestyle choices.
In the mould of Ronia is Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Katniss is best of all with a bow and arrow, believes in equality and, thus, has to defy the dictates of patriarchal society. She deliberately makes strong friendships with less advantaged women and children.
Not Just Hermione
Weirdness can be a great asset if you can embrace it, and weird and quirky Luna Lovegood is one of J K Rowling’s most memorable female characters in the Harry Potter series. Luna may not be as up-front as Hermione but is as brave and smart. She’s loyal and unapologetically refuses to give in to bullying or peer pressure. She shows compassion towards those who wrong her.
Six female teen heroes are given the task of saving the world in The Circle trilogy by Sara Bergmark Elfgren and Mats Strandberg. The girls are real human beings. They are strong and weak. They are mean, unkind, loyal and forgiving to each other as moods dictate. They love and hate. They are important because they are not the usual fantasy lone heroine surrounded by men who are ready to take over control at the hint of a hissy fit.
One of our favorite fictional feminist heroes is Melinda Sordino in Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Melinda is a mute (which is the Italian translation of her last name). After a rape attack, she decides to ensure that her attacker is brought to justice and she finds her voice in the process. As is not uncommon in many patriarchal societies, she has to find the courage to defy the pressures heaped on her to keep quiet and go about her business as though nothing traumatic had happened. As it should be, she becomes a symbol of courage and power to victims of sexual abuse.
All these books are available at the much-loved book shop, Bookworm. For more info click on bookwormhanoi.com or visit their shop at 44 Chau Long, Ba Dinh, Hanoi