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Tired of stories featuring men as saviours? These books where women save the day make a great addition to your vacation reading list!
When I was young and I’d read the fairy tales, I always had one question in mind. Why did the prince need to rescue the poor princess in most of these stories and what did they mean by ‘living happily ever after’? Ok, make it two questions.
Be it Cinderella or Snow White or Sleeping Beauty, all fairy tales taught us that women needed to be rescued and saved and then they lived a life of unending bliss with the man who saved them. None of those stories thought of an alternative ending, perhaps one where the women saved themselves or better still, they saved a man in distress, instead.
Also, what do they imply by ending each story with a ‘happily ever after’? Was it that the princess had children and looked after the family, while the prince managed his kingdom? “What if,” my tiny mind used to ask, “the princess hated housework or didn’t quite liked kids in the first place?” Even before I could understand what feminism meant, these questions seemed to come to me naturally! I know I’m a ‘Sanskari’ person’s nightmare.
Anyway, for the rest of you who identify with my feelings, I have some good news for you. Since I’d always been the one who wanted the woman to CREATE the ‘happy ending’ herself (pun unintended), as I grew up, I’d constantly be on the lookout for books which gave me such stories.
And hence today, I venture forth to give you a list of books where women save the day. Be it her own life or that of others, these books show us how women too are capable of using their wit and strength to tide over challenges. Some of us don’t really need men to save us, you see! So, without further ado, let us explore a list of books where women save the day!
Finally, we have a Cinderella who is not merely a damsel in distress! For all of us looking for fairy tales which don’t perpetrate the set gender expectations, this story addresses feminist issues like how girls can fight the burden of obedience which is imposed upon them since childhood, how they can form strong female friendships and more importantly, how they can learn to save themselves instead of waiting for a man to save them. Needless to say, this book is a delight to read for women of all ages.
Irrespective of whether you’re a fan of the books or the movies, it is undeniable that Hermione Granger’s intelligence, courage, and loyalty were some of the reasons why Harry and Ron were saved from time to time and why she was one of the most important characters responsible for Voldemort’s fall. Though the series is named after Harry Potter, it is arguably Hermione (and women like her), who saves the day in most parts of the series.
This series is not only populated by female characters but both the hero and the primary villain are women and though it is in the YA genre, the female characters hardly discuss men, but rather talk about serious issues like war and humanity. Also the remarkable transformation of the protagonist Beatrice, from being an Abnegation, that is someone in self denial to a Divergent, a person with many qualities, is one of the most important highlights of the books. The books are set in a dystopian Chicago world where society is divided into five groups with each group dedicated to the cultivation of a certain virtue, namely, Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent).
In a post-apocalyptic North America, there is a wealthy Capitol surrounded by 12 poorer districts. As a punishment for a rebellion carried by a 13th district which was eventually destroyed, the Capitol arranges for an annual televised event called Hunger Games where one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district have to be sent as a tribute. These games are such that the rivals are forced to fight until death, till only one survivor is left. When Katniss’s younger sister gets selected as a representative, Katniss offers to go in her place. While Katniss, the feisty warrior fights for survival, what is special in the stories is that despite her strength, agility or wit, what truly makes her memorable is that she also embraces her feminine side and finds strength in other women, and these are the relationships that finally save her life.
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is one of the most important authors of contemporary women’s fiction. This is her collection of short stories where the central theme is arranged marriage. From the story of a demure and traditional Bengali woman being married to a man who lives in the U.S. and the reality she faces after his sudden death, to the girl who comes for higher education into the U.S. and stays with her aunt and uncle, confronting complexities in relationships and foreign lands, to the divorced middle aged mother who is faced with raising her son alone in San Francisco, this collection of stories with their underlying themes of feminism and a woman’s power to change her destiny, is as poetic as it is realistic. A must read, especially for Indian women.
The story of 14 year old Johanna Morrigan’s coming of age is in equal parts funny as it is poignant. In 1990, when Johanna terribly shames herself in a local TV channel, she decided to reinvent herself as Dolly Wilde. This book is about Johanna’s journey and her dreams. But are books, poetry, music, and bad heroes, ingredients enough for her to become the person she wanted to be? This is an evocative story of self discovery from a writer who won’t stop making you laugh.
You must be acquainted with Malala’s story by now. The girl in the Swat Valley of Pakistan who bravely fought against the Taliban for her rights to education. In 2012, when she was shot in the head at the age of 15, no one expected her to survive.
Instead, she not only miraculously recovered, but she also became the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate. The book chronicles Malala and her family’s journey from a region suffering from terrorism to her fights for girls’ education.
Beryl Markham was an aviator, race horse trainer, and beauty and this book talks about her life in 1920s and 1930s Kenya. The book will be loved by a wide segment of readers especially women, pilots, people who love Africa and also those who enjoy reading beautiful literature. This book is a series of memories during her time in Kenya which, like pearls, she had strung together beautifully in this book.
This 1983 Pulitzer winning novel focuses on the lives of women of color in the 1930’s Southern U.S. The story revolves around Celie, a young black girl who lives in poverty and is raped repeatedly by the very person who she calls ‘father’. Celie’s two children are snatched away from her; she is separated from her sister, and is forced into an ugly marriage. However, when she meets, Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken the controls of her life in her own hands, Celie too is inspired to take charge of her life and change its course.
Known to be one of the rare works in satire by African American women, even with serious issues like race, ethnicity and identity, Oreo is a hilarious read. The novel talks about the relationship between African Americans and Jews. Oreo’s father is Jewish and her mother, an African American. Oreo grew up with her grandparents in Philadelphia and soon after adolescence; she heads out to New York in search of her father.
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