Empowering Girls, One Book at a Time

I’ve written about empowering young girls before on a previous blog, but I felt like it needed to be mentioned again. There’s a lot going on in the world right now, and very little of it is good. Still, I don’t want to give up hope that our generation can turn things around.

As a writer, I want to see the world get better instead of worse. For that reason, I’ve always tried to be socially conscious when writing. After all, books had a profound impact on me as a young teen. Every time I sit down at the keyboard, I try to create real characters. They’re people of different races, from different cultures and backgrounds. I’m of the view that minorities shouldn’t be tokens you get gold stars for (such as: “my main character has a black friend, so I did a good job”). They deserve to be main characters, and our increasingly diverse population of young people deserve to see themselves reflected as heroes in literature.

I try to fight against misconceptions that I had as a young child. Hijabs do not equal oppression, a boy crying does not make him weak, and having a mental disorder does not make someone violent or evil. These are some of the messages I try to send. Young female characters, in particular, hold a special place in my heart.

As a child, I read dozens and dozens of adventures with boys as the main character. Treasure Island, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Kidnapped, Oliver Twist, The Yearling and even Watership Down (which was about rabbits) all had male heroes. Modern day books such as Holes, Harry Potter, Airborn, Looking for Alaska, and Unwind also feature male heroes. Needless to say, there were a lot of heroic, adventurous boys on my schools’ required reading lists and not a lot of girls. Thankfully, things have started to change.

In the YA genre, female writers have been making great strides, and they’ve brought a lot of their girl power with them. Female-centered stories with strong leads began to emerge in rapid succession once a new generation of writers got their turn at the plate. Now, a huge section of the YA market is dedicated to female protagonists. Male writers have also started creating stronger female characters. Kenneth Oppel’s Kate de Vries and Scott Westerfield’s Deryn Sharp played hugely important and powerful roles throughout their respective trilogies. It was a change I was glad to see happen.

It always pleases me when I see girls being depicted as powerful, be it though traditional or nontraditional roles. IN addition, diverse female characters send the message that women can be masters of their own story. This should be true of every female, regardless of their race, if they are boyish or girly, fat or thin, weak or strong.

Girls hold up half the sky, and they deserve the same respect and rights as men – be it in literature or real life. This is a message I am always trying to send through my female characters. After all, it’s hard to be a girl. Every woman on television is thin, beautiful, rich, well-dressed, and overwhelmingly white. Our lives are determined by corporations and governments that are 80% to 97% male. Women are 51% of the population, but we are voiceless when it comes to determining the laws that govern us. This is one of many reasons why we need feminism to achieve equality. In literature, I feel like women are finally starting to gain ground.

When I was young, I wanted to write, but I also wanted to get into robotics and engineering. My science teachers never encouraged me. I was told by a teacher in grade school that girls had a harder time in math and science. When I grew up and learned why such statements were wrong, I promised to do better. I hope I’ve done just that.

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