After reading about my take on the Hungry Heroines in popular books, you’re probably wondering: What does Hungry Heroine mean, anyway?
Is it one of those sororities you read about in the news, where pledges are required to dye their hair certain colors and have their outfits scrutinized on a SmartBoard before appearing in public?
Or, a group of Disney-fanatic princess impersonators, who use YouTube to perfect Elsa braids and have the entire score to The Little Mermaid memorized? (As a side note: try watching The Little Mermaid as an adult. It’s frightening. Girl sees boy, girl goes to extreme lengths to try to kiss boy, boy falls for girl based solely on her cute red hair and inability to use utensils properly, finally girl marries boy and leaves her family forever. Umm, yikes.)
Or is Hungry Heroine just a term that an odd, literary-inclined lady made up to affix to her favorite heroines (and heroes) in novels?
Yes to that last one. Guilty as charged. Bet you’re glad it’s not the princess cult.
Though it’s a silly term, and most of the Hungry Heroines I write about have very little in common, I find it an interesting and empowering lens through which to read. I love reading about strong female characters, and finding them in novels where they are present, but not spotlighted. One of my early favorite books was the classic YA novel, A Girl Named Disaster, by Nancy Farmer. As I read about Nhamo’s trials and triumphs in spite of all she faced, nine-year old me was intensely impressed, inspired, and already bothering my mom to take me back to the library after finishing it in less than three days (thanks Mom!).
As I’ve aged, I’ve continued to be drawn to these types of strong female characters. Works by Barbara Kingsolver and Margaret Atwood have become treasured favorites. For lighter reading, I love funny women writers with unique views (Mindy Kaling’s new book review coming your way soon). I’m always up for a biography on a famous female figure (lately I’ve read about Zelda Fitzgerald, Sheryl Sandberg, and Joan of Arc). Hungry Heroines by no means restrict my “reading taste,” which I find to be a hard thing to define anyway. Rather, but they enrich my reading experience, and give me an example to aspire to.
A Hungry Heroine is hard to define.
Like all humans, Hungry Heroines are flawed. Sometimes, they completely fail. Sometimes, they have to start over. Sometimes, they get caught up in things that their better judgment advises against.
The key here is choice. Hungry Heroines (and Heroes) actively choose.
They choose to follow their passions.
They choose to speak, and be heard.
They choose the people around them. Especially their mates.
They choose to make changes, if they feel they are on the wrong path.
They choose to do some good in the world in their short time here, and make a positive impact on the community around them. Or sometimes to just sit at home and drink wine, because they feel like it.
They choose poorly, sometimes.
And sometimes they choose to say “okay, whatever” to accepted convention and go build a tiny house.
Choosing sounds easy, right? And it is. Every day, we make plenty of choices that help or hurt our well-being. The trick is the “active” part. The part where you look at your life, your surroundings, and take stock of where you are, where you want to be, and how you can get there. Sometimes it’s easier to let circumstance make our choices for us: it’s easier to not have to take responsibility when things go wrong. But Hungry Heroines don’t fall into this trap. For better or for worse: they choose.
Can you think of a favorite literary Hungry Heroine (or Hero)?