Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Improper Poll: Superheroine

I keep thinking about something I read in my critique group last week. I hope you, Beth, will consider turning your work into a Y.A. book.

It’s well known how poorly represented women have been in literature throughout history. All Shakespeare gave us was Lady Macbeth, and we all know what that woman screwed to the sticking post. We’ve been demonized, sanctified, and objectified. Second to the devil but ranked far below men, we bite apples and offer them to innocents. We are responsible for original sin, the death of the family, and we can launch a thousand ships. We are Madonnas, whores, and jiggly dashboard decor. We are literal (but not figurative—go figure) Figureheads. We are, in contests, little more than our figures. We are storms and vehicles and various and sundry possessions.

But now here we are in the midst of an overwhelming change in societal roles, yet we’re allowing ourselves to be represented in such shallow pursuits that we’re sort of being demoralized all over again in “reality” TV that makes us go to war over dresses and tiaras. That’s not really who the true American woman is, either.

I just read something at critique group that I felt spoke in the voice of genuine American girls. I am those girls, I’ve known those girls, and I see those girls in schools every day. They are not little women in that sense (though I loved the book); they are not paragons of virtue. Even now, YA heroines are often what society tells us women should be rather than what we are. As if what we are isn’t good enough. We are not allowed to be imperfect, and we're not allowed to have the struggles that real women face. The more we “evolve,” the more society hands us. We must sacrifice all, do it all, take care of all and win it all.

Look at Katniss Everdeen. She’s a warrior, an Amazon. This teenaged girl rescues her own mother and takes on her job, sacrifices herself for her sister, feeds her family, fights her own battles, saves her man’s life by outsmarting the government, looks pretty for cameras, fights in an army and then rescues a nation and all future children in it. That girl really is on fire.

 And then there’s little Bella Swan, surviving attacks, charming her predators, loving the one who wants to consume her and accepting his arrogance and stalking, then managing to attain her goal of becoming the undead while sacrificing herself for her child and turning out to be not only the lone vampire mother in the world, but a veritable demon-Madonna who can resist eating her baby. But wait—there's more. Turns out she can also whup vampire ass while rescuing her entire family against armies.

 I did enjoy those books, but I’m ready now to read about real girls. Or aren’t real girls good enough? Why can’t we just be…people?

Who is your favorite heroine?


  1. As a kid, it was Nancy Drew and Joan of Arc. (Not even Catholic, but I still admired that saint, and even had a haircut just like hers!)

    I agree. Beth has a YA novel that's ripe for the pickin'. The experiences and the sensory details have us right where Beth wants us, and it is SO needed.

    You're right, Tammy. Why can't normal, real girls be enough?

  2. Sioux stole some of my thunder--or maybe I should write fire--Joan of Arc was one of my childhood heroines. And I couldn't get enough of Nancy Drew.
    Other heroines were Francie Nolan from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (bright, spunky, a dreamer) and -- maybe because of the snow outside -- the Little Poor Match Girl.

  3. I used to be partial to Trixie Belden mysteries. My favorite was The Mystery at Bob-White Cave, because it was set in the Ozarks. And there were BLIND FISH!

  4. Yes, yes, yes to everything. Brilliant.

    Nancy Drew was smart, discerning and independent, and I read all of the mysteries I could get my hands on. And let's not forget Elizabeth Bennett, Jane Austin's marvelous heroine, who always spoke her mind. She even told off the fear inspiring Lady De Bourgh AND got her man. :) One of my fave TV shows is Castle -- Stana Katic in the role of Kate Beckett gives us, again, a smart, discerning, independent woman---she's like Nancy Drew all grown up.

  5. I agree with Lisa. Let's not forget Jane Austen, who also spoke her mind about simpering useless women.
    If your friend Beth indeed has a young adult novel with real young women in it, brava! But in these uncertain days of self-published online books, how does anyone who isn't named Rowling get a book of any genre out there for the world to see.
    Would that Harry Potter had been Harriet, methinks.

  6. Love this post, Tammy! You're so right about the need to recognize real girls/real women in fiction and otherwise.

    Like Sioux, I always loved Nancy Drew. Other favorites were Jo from Little Women, and because of my name, St. Theresa the Little Flower. But you know I do still love Katniss...!

  7. Tammy - thanks for the props! I sooo want to do this, thank you, thank you (and all of the WWWPs) for inspiring me, for making me believe - if just a little bit - that I can do it. I, too loved Nancy Drew. I also read every single Little House on the Prairie. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Anne of Green Gables....
    I totally agree that it should just be people. And that girls - just normal girls, are enough to be heroes!

  8. I read and enjoyed all the books mentioned, but not necessarily as my favorite heroines. I did get moony over movies and loved watching old black and white films...especially those starring strong independent women like Katherine Hepburn.

    Critter Alley

  9. Yes, I agree, and that makes me think maybe I could dig up an old story. I had shared it with a writer friend who told me he thought it would make a good YA. I was like, what? YA? I think I was disappointed because I wasn't writing it as a YA! Ha. But...


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