Women Protagonists in YA: A List and Resources

akata-witch-by-nnedi-okorafor

This is a work in progress, any feedback from the audience/readers will be incorporated into the list.  I am especially interested in finding any good works about female friendship.  Here is a wonderful tumblr devoted to diversity in YA.  Here is a wonderfully comprehensive list of protagonists of color in YA and another specifically looking at SF and fantasy.

Akata Witch - Nnedi Okorafor

I cannot recommend this book enough.  It deals with being an outsider on multiple levels — because of looks, because of talents, because of being a girl in a patriarchal society, and because of culture.  It’s about an albino girl in Nigeria, who was born in America and spent years there before being brought back to Nigeria with her family.  She discovers that she has magic powers.  Imagine Harry Potter, but based entirely on Nigerian culture.  I’ve not read Nnedi Okorafor’s other work, but I am going to as soon as I can.  The beautiful art above is from the cover of this novel.

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

While this book does have a love triangle in it, it is otherwise a fantastic dystopian novel with a female lead.  Katniss is smart and driven by her desire to help her family and herself.  She can be quite selfish and uninterested in the feelings of others.  These flaws make her far more interesting than many women in YA novels and far from a passive participant in the events.  She is also written with olive skin and dark hair, which many interpret as being a person of color but, at the very least, is resistant to the blonde haired, blue eyed tradition.

His Dark Materials Trilogy – Philip Pullman

These books are really fascinating from an atheist perspective, but also just a really good fantasy story.  The lead character is a pre-pubescent girl who is an expert liar.  Her journey is fascinating.  The book is also notable for the importance and fundamental goodness of the Gyptian people (based on Gypsies) to the storyline.

Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson

This is an incredible book about a girl who is outcast from her high school because she called the cops when she was at a party.  She called the cops because she had been raped, but she is unable to talk about it.  In fact, she doesn’t speak much at all.  The book is about her coping with what happened to her and learning to be herself again.  It was made into a completely watchable movie starring Kristen Stewart pre-Twilight.

Princess Academy – Shannon Hale

I am a sucker for books about princesses, especially if they’re princesses who buck the trend and do something totally unusual like have opinions and fight battles and refuse to get married.  The lead character of this book is a young woman who feels like an outcast and, in the end, does not want the prince and doesn’t get him.  The book is really about the importance of education for women and the role of one’s home and family.

Tiffany Aching Series – Terry Pratchett

My reviews of Tiffany Aching books are here and here.  I love Terry Pratchett, I hope some day to write something I enjoy as much as Terry Pratchett books.  Tiffany Aching is a marvelous lead.  Her first book is the most compelling, but I really wish that someone would turn Tiffany Aching into a TV series.  It’s like a pre-teen Buffy.

Equal Rites – Terry Pratchett

My review from a couple years ago: Third in the Discworld series and by far my favorite of them all.  This introduces Granny Weatherwax, who is my favorite Pratchett character, followed closely by Death.  Pratchett’s greatest skill as a writer, in my opinion, is that none of his characters are particularly attractive and they all have terrible flaws, but you like them and they never get over their flaws.  People don’t become pretty, or overcome their inherent selfishness or cowardice, they’re just regular people.

Harriet the Spy – Louise Fitzhugh

This is one of my favorite books. She also seems to be on the spectrum as well — she’s very into routine and order and not good at empathizing with others.  I tried to watch the movie version again recently and was unable to get through it, so stick to the book I think.  Many people read Harriet and her friends as queer as well.  I personally see far more traits of autism than indications of any kind of sexuality.

Enchanted Forest Chronicles – Patricia C. Wrede

This is a brilliant series about a princess who doesn’t want to be a princess and has no interest in boring princes trying to rescue her.  She runs away to live with a dragon because that’s much more interesting.  And the dragons are much more into gender equality than humans, teaching some interesting lessons about the roles of men and women.

Ella Enchanted – Gail Carson Levine

Despite the terrible movie, the book is actually a really good examination of societal expectations of women.  I really like Gail Carson Levine’s writing style, but her books are fairly short on people of color.

Coraline – Neil Gaiman

I love Neil Gaiman, and the character of Coraline is great.  The story is not my favorite, I thought The Graveyard Book, which was similar in tone, was a much better read.  If you like YA horror, however, you can’t get a much better character than Coraline.

 

On My To-Read

Divergent – Veronica Roth

Fault in Our Stars – John Green

Books by Tamora Pierce, not sure which

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown – Holly Black

Ash – Malinda Lo

Liar – Justine Larbalestier

Chaos – Nalo Hopkinson

Half-World - Hiromi Goto

Eon – Alison Goodman

Book of 1000 Days – Shannon Hale

FtBCon – Ashley’s schedule

Life is always easier when you’ve got a schedule to follow.  So here’s mine for the weekend.  I am in on 5 sessions, talking about a variety of subjects from YA lit to video games, but all to do with media and culture.  Which is good because I have a degree that makes people think I’m qualified in that.

TImes here are in EST, but if you go to the site they’ll be in CST.

FtBConscience

As of right now this is a solo talk, but I have feelers out for anyone who might want to join.  If you’re an expert on YA lit, let me know.

Although much of the bestselling YA literature in the last few years has featured female main characters, ofttimes the portrayal of these characters is problematic in terms of gender stereotypes and lack of minority characters. This is a discussion of the ways YA literature succeeds and fails and why it needs to change.

I feel like so underqualified to be on this panel.  I play ukulele cover songs on YouTube and love to sing karaoke.  And I’m on a panel with an actual musician with records and such.  Yep.  Imposter syndrome big time.

Join us to hear a few songs and have a casual chat with ukulelist and FtB blogger Ashley Miller, and Australian singer-songwriter Shelley Segal. In 2011 Shelley published An Atheist Album, and she has played at the Reason Rally, the American Atheist Convention, Women In Secularism and other events. Panel facilitated by Brianne Bilyeu

Jason Thibeault, Russell Glasser, Brianne Bilyeu, Ashley F. Miller, Avicenna, Tauriq Moosa.  Religion and morality systems in video games are often grossly oversimplified, to the point where choices are entirely binary and you’re often forced, as a gamer, to do things that you might otherwise find appalling, like working in service of a god or gods. How are these heady topics handled in the slowly-maturing video game industry? Who’s already doing this stuff right? How can these topics’ treatment be improved?

Jason Thibeault, Avicenna, Brianne Bilyeu, Ashley F. Miller, Rebecca Watson, Lynnea Glasser. Women make up 45% of the gamer population, a number that’s constantly climbing. And yet, female protagonists in games are few and far between — and when games are exclusively fronted by female characters, they get far less marketing budget than their equivalent male-led titles. Why?

JT Eberhard, Rebecca Watson, Heina Dadabhoy, Ashley F. Miller, Hemant Mehta, Xavier Trapp.  TV, Movies, Comic books… our popular culture is soaked in depictions of religious people, but what about atheists? How are atheists portrayed in the public sphere? How can we do better? A panel of atheists gets at the real issues.

 

 

Tonight at 7PM: The Ashley F Miller Show Episode 4

Join me, Ian Cromwell of Crommunist Manifesto, and Andrew Tripp of Considered Exclamations and More than Men as we talk:

Politics: The Zimmerman verdict

Media: Ender’s Game and the boycott

Guest choice: Representation issues in YA Lit.

You can RSVP to the “event” here and, when the hangout is on-air, it should send you a link of the YouTube page, or just come back here at 7 and the YouTube link will be up.

This is filmed in front of a live internet audience — if you’ve got input feel free to get in touch before or during the show by commenting here, on youtube, or on the event page.

It will also be edited and released as a podcast.

Podcast website: http://ashleyfmiller.libsyn.com/webpage

Podcast RSS: http://ashleyfmiller.libsyn.com/rss

Podcast on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-ashley-f-miller-show/id666564480

20 good posts for a new blog on writing

I have a friend who is thinking about doing a weekly blog about writing for a newspaper.  She started IMing me because she wasn’t super confident about what she should write about or how someone went about doing a blog like for real people, not for like friends.  (Her example being that she couldn’t post things like “I found a picture of poo on the interwebs”)

So I came up with a list based on a few things.  1. People like lists 2. People like hate 3. People like advice.  Copied from the IM window.

1st post has to be who you are and what you write and why
2nd could be a focus on say a particular genre and what makes it unique (she is focusing on a YA Sci Fi story)
3rd post about how to pick a topic or location that you’d be good at writing, so that’d be about research and why it’s set wherever
4th post about the difference between YA, kids and adult fiction
5th post about an author or person who gets YA literature absolutely wrong (I picked YA over SciFi because SciFi authors get torn apart fairly regularly)
6th post about if it’s possible to separate the author from their work (See Orson Scott Card)
7th post about struggling with the second act
8th post what to do when you have several different endings that could work
9th post about creating a world that is different from modern earth
10th post about something full of rage and hate — maybe how online fiction isn’t taken seriously, or you know, something angry
11th post should address different mediums and how to write for them (short story, long fiction, online, print, TV, film etc)
12th post should be about an author you loved and inspired you to get into writing with some heartwrenching bs
13th should be about whether it’s OK to include messages or to write “message fiction”
14th should be a response to reader questions, which you may have to make up
15th should be about how there’s not enough respect for minority of your choice in fiction at large
16th make fun of Mary Sues
17th 10 ways writing is like poo
18th 10 ways author-you-hate’s writing is like poo
19th a controversial opinion piece like how coming out stories are boring or how cancer made my life better stories are bullshit
20th what’s hardest about writing for you coming up with ideas, or plotting or whatever and how you get around it

Finally, a parody post where you just put in different options that another blogger could simply highlight to tell their story “How my minority status/disability/difficult childhood helped/hurt my writing career”

I will now consult her blog, should she start writing, and check things off the list if she uses them.  Maybe I’ll write a couple too…