Girl Power – 10 books with empowering female characters
By Meera Ramanathan
Now, more than ever, we need stories of strong women. Not just those that are shamed but also of those shimmering. We need stories of bravery and puberty. Tales twisted in self-doubt and self-assurance. We need books that shed light on equality and hearten girls, who are enveloped in the duress of the current political climate, that their voices are important and they will be heard.
Here is a list of 10 books that inspire and empower our girls with their strong female protagonists.
Let’s throw out the damsel-in-distress and here comes the knight with the shining armour narrative. Soumya’s retake on the classic fairy tales have a refreshing wit and bolster our hopes that girls are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves.
2. Aditi and her friends by Suniti Namjoshi (Children’s fiction)
The author was influenced by J. Krishnamurthi who used to come and talk to children in her American mission school in the foothills of the Himalayas. Although her Feminist fables achieved critical acclaim, this series that recasts popular legends and folktales from our own land are a definite read for the young ones.
3.The Breadwinner series by Deborah Ellis (Middle School)
All girls should read “The Breadwinner series” says Malala Yousafzai. This trilogy charts out the extraordinary things girls are capable off when the world around them is intent in silencing their spirits.
Children born in multicultural families are no longer an anomaly. This is the new norm and award-winning author Uma Krishnaswami brings to the forefront the prejudice and discrimination that seeps in because of skin colour.
5.Amina’s voice by Hena Khan (Middle School)
Middle school is when children question their identity and also start their lifelong journey of introspection. Amina is Pakistani American and her best friend Soojin in Korean American. Mocked for the food in their lunchboxes to more complicated issues, the need to “fit in” creates a pressure cooker situation. Hena Khan has loaded this book with all the narratives that children tackle because of their hyphenated identities.
6. Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed (Middle school)
Amal has a simple dream – to study. Something that is taken for granted in many parts of the world but remains an unattainable dream for kids born on the wrong side of the world. But Amal is a girl who will make the most of the situation thrown at her. She is adamant in not letting her brain rot and finds An ingenious way to continue her education until she has had enough. She forces herself to stand up and speak up and question the status quo.
Disobedience from a girl is unacceptable. Juxtaposing these words in the title, Ru Freeman takes us through the tale of two young girls set in the island nation of Sri Lanka. Latha, is the house help, daring to attain things that she thinks she deserves but are simply out of her realm. Tangled with her is Biso, a bruised and battered housewife who flees the life of domestic violence. When desire bubbles inside, it is hard to contain it and this sets the pace of the journey these two embark on.
Ameena talks about the little-known facts about the Muslim community in Sri Lanka. When an adoptive daughter is denied her claim to the family because of religion she embarks on a journey of self-discovery. It takes her through the civil war, deadly tsunami and also the perils of western aid.
Growing up South Asian in the West is a constant imbalance created by having one foot in each culture. Add to this the misogyny and patriarchy that has seeped into the men and women who play along unquestioningly. This anthology of essays, memoirs, poems and fiction is an eye-opener for women of all cultures.
10. Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao – YA
The searing image of fire in the cover sets the narrative of Poornima and Savitha who are ambitious girls straddled in poverty. The book is tragic yet evocative in telling the story of these girls caught in violence of all forms. (Disclaimer: Beware of the sexual content, rape, abuse, assault in this book).
About the author:
Meera R Corera (@meeraramanathan) is a SAP Consultant. She also pursues her passion for writing focusing on — women, travel, careers, immigration, food and cinema.
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