Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. The women in these books are some of my favorites, exemplifying courage, conviction, and a willingness to speak their minds—whether in a whisper or a roar.
Who: Laurel Hand
What: The Optimist’s Daughter, by Eudora Welty
Why: Laurel is willing to be wrong about herself.
Who: Flavia de Luce
What: Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley
Why: Oh, to know at age 11 that you are unlikely to be recognized for your genius and have the forbearance to forgive those around you.
Who: Isabel Spellman
What: The Spellman Files, by Lisa Lutz
Why: Isabel’s imperfections are not solely for comedic effect. She’s funny, but her insecurities are real and she knows it.
Who: Lyra Belacqua
What: The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman
Why: She is adventurous and impatient and steadfast. I love her.
What: The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
Why: 1. Worked in a library. 2. Refuses to become powerless over her own fate.
Who: Ramona Quimby
What: Ramona and Her Father, by Beverly Cleary
Who: Ramona is fearless, loud, and wonderfully articulate about how baffling the world of grown-ups can be.
Who: Nora Ephron
What: Crazy Salad: Some Things About Women, by Nora Ephron
Why: Even as a voracious reader and English major, it wasn’t until I read this book that I realized how distinct and honest a woman’s voice could be.
Who: Joan Didion
What: Slouching towards Bethlehem
Why: If you have read Didion’s essays, you have listened to a tour guide for humanity.
Who: The Mother
What: “People Like That are the only People Here,” in Birds of America, by Lorrie Moore
Why: She is the id of every mother. Her last line will haunt you forever.
Who: Elizabeth Bennet
What: Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
Why: It’s Elizabeth Bennet! Enough said!