Bookish Things, Education, Thoughts

Role Models: Part One

Over the past two weeks I have spent some time at home recovering from an ankle reconstruction and I often found myself thinking about roles models. This came about because of the type of books I’ve been reading, the TV shows I’ve been watching, some of my interactions with our gym members, and what I wanted to say for International Women’s Day this year. In this blog post “Role Models: Part One” I want to talk about Fictional Role Models, and in “Role Models: Part Two” I’ll discuss Real-Life Role Models.

On International Women’s Day (IWD) this year I took my time thinking about the message that I wanted to share within my spheres of influence. I ended up sharing about the importance of role models for women. To that end, my Instagram post ended up being this:

krystalgagen: I’ve been thinking long and hard about what I wanted to post for International Women’s Day this year, and then it hit me: books by women, for women. I started going through my personal library for my favourite books and I realised just how many I had (this is not all of them…)

It’s so important to have great role models. Women NEED to see other women succeeding in a wide variety of positions so that they have the confidence to know they can do it too. Books are a great way to give girls confidence.

So, happy International Women’s Day. Celebrate the women in your life, recognise their achievements, and empower them to give anything they want a go.

Here’s to strong women.
May we know them. ❤️
May we raise them. ❤️
May we be them. ❤️

PS. Although Grant is not a female author, his characters were too good to leave out… Amazing role models regardless.

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As I pointed out, fictional role models can often take the place of real-life role models, and I think they are equally as important. Here’s why…

I never had a lot of female role models during my teens and early twenties. My mum was my main role model, and my grandmas, but other than that I was limited to teachers. Our family is close and I didn’t get to watch my parents interact with many adult women who weren’t related to me and I certainly never got the opportunity to find a female mentor during my years of development. My favourite teachers in high school were often males and although they were awesome (so knowledgeable and passionate about their subjects), they were still men. I’m in my late 20s now and I’d say that I still don’t have a definitive role model – some of my friends are fantastic influences on me, but I often find myself searching for guidance. When I was growing up, books taught me all I needed to become the person I am today, and I still find inspiration in characters for self growth. Without these books, I would not have had the opportunity to develop my sense of self, and discover who I am today.

There were two series in particular that I feel really shaped who I am today: Harry Potter by JK Rowling, and Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce. Both written by women with strong female characters. Here’s what I learned from these two series:

Hermione in Harry Potter
Hermione taught me that it was ok to be smart. I didn’t need to pretend I wasn’t just to have friends in my corner. Her brains and her kindness are just two of the things I love about Hermione. I know that I personally, as 7 year old girl that was told she was “bossy,” needed Hermione to show me that I wasn’t bossy, but rather I was smart, had great leadership skills, and could still have friends.

Alanna in Song of the Lioness
Alana taught me that girls didn’t have to do “girly” things. Alana wanted to be a knight and she worked hard to get there. She taught me that if I truly wanted something, I would need resilience, courage, and to know that even though some people might disagree with me, if I wanted something badly enough I could make it happen.

I don’t remember there being an abundance of novels available to me that had strong female characters as I grew up. These two series are the only two that really stand out in my mind. And so, this got me thinking about how amazing it is that these days there are a number of books with strong female characters, and what that means for the current generation and future generations.

The books pictured in my Instagram post for IWD 2018 have female characters that:

  • Specialise in technology and are often even better at it than the boys
  • Fight wars for their countries because they love their country
  • Make decisions about their futures based on what they want to do, not on what they are told to do – in fact, often these two things are opposites.
  • Show compassion and kindness, and have it seen as a strength, not a weakness

By reading books with strong female characters that exhibit these characteristics and more, girls, teens, young women, and women are exposed to a range of characters that show them what women are capable of. By having these fictional role models, we can see what women can do if given the chance.

I will continue to read books that have strong female characters, and I will continue to recommend these books to my students, both male and female! However, I will also continue to find and read books with strong male characters as well, because it’s a two way street. Overall, the power of fictional role models is something that I truly believe in. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Bookish Things

A new favourite author – Sarah J Maas

There are some authors that you just want to read everything they’ve ever written because you’ve fallen in love with their writing style, character development, and plot lines. I have not felt this way about an author since I was in year 6 and reading Tamora Pierce‘s series, such as Song of the Lioness, Daughter of the Lioness, Circle of Magic, and The Circle Opens, until recently. For me that author is now Sarah J Maas; author of Throne of Glass series and the A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

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So why do I love Maas’ writing so much?

Maas has this way of allowing you to relate to and understand all of her characters, even the ones you don’t like. In the Throne of Glass series, Maas writes in 3rd person, regularly jumping around to tell the story from different characters’ points of view. She does this seamlessly. You never get lost in the story, it flows really well and is very clear. Due to the switching perspectives, readers are able to gain insights into the thoughts, feelings and experiences of almost all the main and supporting characters. As the series progresses, you find yourself actually wanting to read points of view, not just the main ones, and find yourself wishing for sections from characters that don’t particularly get the limelight. This is masterful writing and demonstrates just how well Maas develops her characters. After reading the 5 books in this series, I am yet to have a concrete favourite character. I could go on and on about why I am thoroughly enjoying this particular series of Maas’, but I do not want to give away any spoilers! All I can say is this, the progression of the story from book to book only draws you into the world Maas has created more and more, and ensures that by the time you’ve read all 5 books, you are aching for the next instalment!

In terms of the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, affectionately known by fans as ACOTAR, Maas writes from a 1st person perspective, specifically that of main character Feyre. Because of this, you see the world completely through Feyre’s eyes and therefore your opinion of other characters if completely influenced by how she is feeling. The advantage of this is that you really begin to understand Feyre’s motives and want her to succeed in her trials. The character development and twists that occur during the series are made even more shocking and amazing to the fact that we experience it all alongside Feyre and never see them coming – this is what has made ACOTAR my favourite of the two series! It will be interesting to see whether this style of writing from only Feyre’s perspective persists for the remaining books of the series as the last 2 chapters of A Court of Mist and Fury suggest otherwise and I simply cannot wait!

The last point I’d like to make is with regard to Maas’ novellas for Throne of Glass. It is my opinion that most novellas are written for the sake of generating more interest in the series and income for the authors. In Maas’ case, I feel this is not true. Her collected novellas, printed as The Assassin’s Blade, is somewhat vital to understanding the background of major characters in Queen of Shadows, and the arrival of new ones in Empire of Storms. Without these novellas, Maas would have had to have spent time developing these stories within the context of these two books – something I am not sure she had the time or word length to do justice to them. Therefore, the addition of these novellas allows readers a chance to explore the world more extensively, fall in love with the characters more deeply, and understand the importance of certain events more fully.

I could spend all day talking at length about the genius of Sarah J Maas and why I think she’s made such a big splash in the YA world at this time, however I will refrain from doing so. I urge those that have not had the opportunity to experience her writing for themselves to give it a go!