This guest post comes from L. Marie, an aspiring fantasy writer for teenagers and children. Check out her fabulous blog at www.lmarie7b.wordpress.com and read this post. Thank you L. Marie for joining us at Hardcovers & Heroines!
With the advent of Man of Steel, I returned to an old DC comic book series from the 1970s featuring intrepid TV reporter, Lois Lane. It bears the tagline “Superman’s Girl Friend.” My niece took this photo of the cover of a comic book in my possession. Upon glancing at the cover, she asked: “This is about her [Lois], yet she needs to be rescued?”
Sadly, yes. Though Lois showed courage as she pursued her news stories, she needed Superman’s help when she wound up in over her head. And for some reason, she wound up hit in the head by the bad guys more often than Nancy Drew ever did! But that was back in the day, right? Things have changed, right? Uh, not entirely. Having seen Man of Steel, I realize ****SPOILERS**** some aspects haven’t really changed. Lois still has to be rescued. ****END SPOILERS**** At least Superman is way hot.
My niece’s query reminded me of something I read in Charlene Spretnak’s book, The Politics of Women’s Spirituality: Essays on the Rise of Spiritual Power within the Feminist Movement I read the book while writing my grad thesis on the heroine’s journey in middle grade fiction.
At the end of a lecture on the Arthurian quest legends about the Holy Grail, one of his students asked why there were no roles in the legends with which women could identify. [Campbell] was puzzled and pointed out that women are present as the hero’s mother, the hero’s queen, and the damsel-in-distress. “What more do you want?” he asked. “I want to be the hero, of course!” the student replied.” (Spretnak 90)
Having grown up reading books about heroes (and loving said books—don’t get me wrong), I can relate to the desire to read books where a female has agency. Agency is a huge factor in young adult fiction with heroines like Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games dystopian series by Suzanne Collins and Beatrice (Tris) Prior in the Divergent dystopian trilogy by Veronica Roth. Both are sixteen—an age where many teens in our day begin to become more independent.
Katniss’s journey begins with an act of self-sacrifice: she volunteers to be a contender in the hunger games—the price of being on the losing side after a war. To find out why she volunteers, you have to read the book. But Katniss displays agency. Instead of waiting to be rescued, Katniss acts over and over on her own behalf and that of others. She’s the hero of her story. Collins keeps raising the stakes of Katniss’s journey to make sure the reader realizes the extremely high cost of victory.
In Roth’s dystopia, Chicago is divided into five factions named for virtues. Tris belongs to Abnegation. But she learns a surprising truth about herself that leads to a journey of discovery—a dangerous journey in which she, like Katniss, competes with males and females for survival. I won’t spoil this plot for you either. You have to read the book for yourself or wait for the movie version. Suffice it to say that when Tris finds herself in danger, she can’t rely on a male to pull her out. She has to act for herself.
That’s what being the hero of your story is all about. What books do you like where a female is the hero of her story?
Spretnak, Charlene, ed. Preface to “Mythic Heras as Models of Strength and Wisdom.” The Politics of Women’s Spirituality: Essays on the Rise of Spiritual Power within the Feminist Movement. New York: Doubleday, 1982. 90. Print.
<<Here is the link to Charlene’s website. I used the print copy, however.>> http://www.charlenespretnak.com/the_politics_of_women_s_spirituality_116773.htm