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July 15, 2015

Woman Crush Wednesday: No Shrinking Violets Here!

Posted by emily

Another Wednesday, another stellar batch of women (and girls) in our #wcw roundup. Whether fictional or flesh-and-blood, these ladies are all fierce in their ambition and uncompromising in their expression. They're mold-breakers who aren't interested in being anyone's sidekick --- and aren't afraid to step on a few toes. Don't get us wrong; women can be strong and gentle, too. But today we're crushing hard on the ladies who were brave enough to defy people's expectations and do things their own way. Bonus points for being badass inspirations for the rest of us!

Maya: Amy Poehler, author of YES PLEASE
I actually got to meet Amy Poehler when I first bought my copy of YES PLEASE, at a signing at Barnes & Noble! I told her then that she was one of my biggest living creative inspirations, so I certainly had to feature her as this week's #wcw! I have been motivated by her often exorbitant but always committed and enthusiastic Leslie Knope on “Parks and Recreation” for years. Leslie works for equality and justice, empowers young people and young women especially to work to be the best versions of themselves, and sincerely loves striving to make the world a little bit better --- and YES PLEASE suggests that she certainly takes after Poehler in that sense! In YES PLEASE, Poehler shares tales from her childhood and hilarious inner thoughts you might not have expected from her other media presences, and weaves pictures and personal letters into the narrative. It's a warmly intimate and deeply kind book --- as well as full of her trademark humor --- and I am so grateful that she's a #wcw in every form of media she creates!

Jeanna: Lois Lane, from LOIS LANE: Fallout by Gwenda Bond
This story is not about Superman. It's about Lois Lane. And how she can save the day without super powers. It is the ultimate girl power story. Lois Lane can easily be compared to strong female protagonists like Katniss Everdeen (THE HUNGER GAMES) and Tris (DIVERGENT). However, there is something Gwenda Bond brought to Lane that a lot of those other strong characters lack. Lois Lane was given a voice --- sass, spunk, sarcasm. A lot of the strong female characters we know from other series are pushed into developing into a strong character; they start as shy --- content in their roles --- girls until something pushes them out of the bubble. With Lois Lane, she had a voice --- she was strong --- right from the beginning. Her spunky voice captivates readers deeper into the story. Bond created a gorgeous retelling of a beloved story written within the female perspective that will have you impatiently waiting for the sequel.

Shara: Matilda, from MATILDA by Roald Dahl
As The Book Report Network’s voice for children’s literature, I have to call attention to one of the best heroines for the not-even-close-to-20something set: Roald Dahl’s Matilda. She may not be a “woman” yet, but this little genius of a girl was a fighter who stood up for herself, her friends and the intellectually curious everywhere. Despite having parents who openly mocked her for reading and cared more about hair dye than their own children, Matilda refused to morph into the silent, TV-watching daughter they wanted. She independently visited the library and devoured books to her heart’s content. When she discovered she had telekinesis, she didn’t use it to get free candy bars; she selflessly used her powers for good, helping her teacher earn back the home she deserved by pretending to be a ghost. Even though she wasn’t even in first grade yet, Matilda was a thoughtful, independent and ambitious person who knew what she wanted and how to get it. Definitely crushworthy.

Marco: Jackie MacMullan, co-author of GENO: In Pursuit of Perfection
Jackie MacMullan is my #wcw for her co-authoring of GENO: In Pursuit of Perfection with legendary women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma. MacMullan was a columnist and beat writer for the Boston Celtics at the Boston Globe before moving to ESPN and has been a pioneer for women in her field. This book was published in 2006 and, at the time, Geno was perceived as the bad guy with Pat Summit, the head coach at Tennessee, the good guy. Geno Auriemma, in collaboration with MacMullan, gives you a different perspective of not just the coach, but the man who many don't really know. If you still hate Geno Auriemma after what he has done for UConn and the U.S. Women's National Team, or you are an aspiring coach in any sport, this is a great read. MacMullan did it again.

Emily: Scarlett O’Hara, from GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell
Let’s talk about Scarlett O’Hara. The first sentence in GONE WITH THE WIND describes Scarlett’s appearance and how she affects men: “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.” The rest of the paragraph continues on about her pale green eyes, her bristly black lashes and magnolia-white skin. I was 13 when I read this, and I was prepared for Scarlett to be just like the romance heroines I’d encountered before: a soft-spoken beauty in need of a good sexual awakening. Scarlett, as it turned out, was not that girl. She was such a complicated mess of things, like all real women are: stubborn and ambitious and honest and, sometimes, generous. She was not an easy woman to like, not for the characters in the book or for readers. And sure, she could be petty and selfish and downright mean, but what a radical, beautiful thing to be in a time when women were supposed to be sweet and defer to men in all things! Scarlett was much more than her eyes and her lashes and her skin; she was more than her greed and more than her love. She was a survivor, and exactly the kind of feminist heroine I needed.