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August 5, 2015

Woman Crush Wednesday: Literary Ladies Who Keep Their Cool

Posted by Maya
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As we shift into late summer and cling to the sunshine before the autumn rolls in, let this week's collection of #wcw give you positivity and strength! All of our women (and girls) today are strong and independent, and are true protagonists no matter what role they're written in. Join us as we celebrate the women we're crushin' on this Wednesday, and make sure to celebrate all the women in your life!


Hannah: Lyra Belacqua, from THE GOLDEN COMPASS by Philip Pullman 
Lyra Silvertongue may be just a small 12-year-old girl when Philip Pullman's series His Dark Materials begins, but already she's an ample fusion of wit and virtue with a comedic dash of feistiness who should never be underestimated. Accompanied by her fantastical daemon spirit Pantalaimon, Lyra dives headfirst into an adventure that sends her circling the globe in gypsy sailboats, on the backs of polar bears and flying in hot air balloons. She defies her strict, yet luxurious upbringing and sheds her wealth to be among the poverty-stricken youth of London, all while remaining completely unaware of how extraordinary that is. Her unwavering morality and oblivious innocence make her a true heroine, and it's a big reason this book has remained a timeless classic.
 
The overwhelming majority of transgender representation in the media --- not just books, but in film, television and music --- is sickening, to say the least. Trans people are the butt of so many of the cruelest, most dehumanizing jokes in popular culture, depicted either for lazy cheap laughs, as monsters, or not at all. This misrepresentation costs lives. Recent media is making an effort, and I’ll give a tip of my imaginary hat to Jeffrey Tambor, but first and foremost we must listen to actual transgender people sharing their actual lived experiences if we want to change the way we perceive trans experiences. 
 
If you’re not versed on the subject, if you don’t really know or understand what it means to be trans, begin here. Janet Mock shares her story in a way that is accessible and empowering for all people --- and when I say empowering for cisgender people (that is to say, not trans: people whose gender aligns with what they were assigned at birth), I mean that cisgender people ought to find it empowering to recognize their own privileges and position in the world, and to work to become more supportive allies. Janet Mock works really, really hard to make this accessible and engaging for all readers, but I believe this is first and foremost a beautifully rendered coming-of-age (and coming-of-self) memoir for trans, nonbinary and gender questioning youth. Such a narrative was sorely and completely missing from the adult and young adult canon, and Mock’s articulation of her experiences fills a crucial void. Janet Mock is also mixed race and half black, and she writes expertly about the intersections of her identity and the consequent oppressions she faces. This is a voice all too necessary for current conversations. 
 
REDEFINING REALNESS is at once elegant and empowering, fiercely knowledgeable and tenderly understanding. Janet Mock shares her experiences with identity and womanhood in one of the most crucial and beautiful narratives I’ve ever read, and that makes her a #wcw this week and beyond. 
 

Ronnie: Imogen, from Shakespeare’s "Cymbeline"

Juliet. Desdemona. Viola. Lady Macbeth. Anyone who has ever taken any sort of high school English class instantly recognizes the name of some of the Bard’s more famous heroines. But very few even recognize the character Imogen, let alone name her as one of Shakespeare’s greatest leading ladies. Well, I’d like to change that. After seeing Shakespeare in the Park’s production of "Cymbeline," and then doing the nerd thing and immediately reading the play after, I’m ready to be the president of the Imogen fan club.
 
Princess of the Britain and heir to the throne, Imogen falls in love with no-name commoner Posthumus, and is imprisoned by her father for refusing to give him up. She eventually escapes into the woods dressed as a man, and falls in with a group of outlaws, who (Shakespearian twist:) turn out to be her long-lost brothers. Near the end of the play, she fights with the rest of the men in battle, and is eventually welcomed back by her father. Talk about some awesome girl power! Move over Cordelia, Imogen is poised for a comeback.
 
Jeanna: Lily, from REAWAKENED by Colleen Houck
REAWAKENED hasn't hit stores yet, but it will soon --- and you will love it. Lily, a sheltered New Yorker, is forced out of her comfort zone by an Egyptian prince, but instead of faltering, she basks in the spotlight as a brave, independent and just plain awesome lady. In REAWAKENED, where the story leads readers on a journey with a sun god, it is Lily who shines the brightest. Even though she saves the world from destruction, she continues to be undecided about her future, which makes her extremely relatable. When REAWAKENED releases, Lily will stand among famous female protagonists such as Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior.