This week in our book chat we discussed our favorite female characters. I noticed as I was getting ready for our discussion how many of the books I’ve read have male protagonists and I thought my reading habits were pretty diverse. It just shows you how deeply embedded norms are in our culture and reminds us how we need to be constantly aware of the need to be diverse in our reading habits.
We did get to reminisce about some great female characters and share why we were so taken with them. The following are the characters we love:
Elizabeth Knight Britton -The original "Curator of Mosses"
Alma Whitaker, The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
When I first thought of this topic the first character to come to mind was Alma Whittaker. What I love about Alma is how Elizabeth Gilbert allowed her to have sexual desires. Very few female characters, especially ones set in the 19th century, are portrayed as having any sexual needs and if they are plain or homely, as Alma was, then the possibility of them being portrayed as sexual beings is reduced to zero. Alma is portrayed as a strong, intelligent, independent woman with all the needs and desires a woman has.
Cathy Ames aka Kate Trask, East of Eden by John Steinbeck
The next character that came to mind is one I love to hate, Cathy Trask. I usually like more balanced characters, being that my belief is that no one is all good or all evil but a mix of the two, but Steinbeck makes Cathy sooooo evil from day one that you just can’t forget her. She has to be the evilest woman in fiction.
And of course we had to mention Lisbeth Salander, (the original Girl in the title). The things Larsson does with gender in these books is refreshing. We get to know Lisbeth slowly throughout the trilogy, and begin to see and understand how she became the woman that she is. She is definitely a more balanced and realistic character, than Cathy Ames. These books are great in having both a great plot and great character development.
Aaliya Saleh, An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine
Aaliya is a 72 year old woman living a solitary life in Beirut. Divorced at 20 years old she has spent the past 52 years living alone, just her and her books. She translates these books into Arabic for her own pleasure, revealing her hobby to no one. Aaliya is a strong independent woman who knows what she enjoys and lives her life doing it
Ad Woman, Margaret Fishback
Lillian Boxfish, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
Lillian (Inspired by the life and work of poet and ad woman Margaret Fishback) was "the highest paid advertising women in America" Lillian is a survivor. She persisted in the days when being a woman meant being paid less because you didn't "have families to support". She’s a smart, strong and witty woman, who at the age of eighty-five is still full of life.
Janie Mae Crawford, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston
Janie is a woman that defies gender stereotypes and insists on her independence.She shows a curiosity and confidence and maturity that guide her through the novel to becoming a strong and proud woman.
Addie Moore, Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
Addie Moore is a 70ish widow who decides to stop caring about what other people think and live her life doing what makes her happy. A strong, independent woman.
Ruth Jefferson, Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Ruth is a strong black woman dealing with racism in her job as a labor and delivery nurse.
The Second Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
We never do get to know the second Mrs. de Winter’s name
Scout aka Jean Loise Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
The female characters from the following books;
Any female characters from the following authors:
What We’ve been Reading
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
First Dads by Joshua Kendall
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
The Thirst by Jo Nesbo
The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu
Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger
The Heirs by Susan Rieger
Other Books we mentioned: