Here at Bookish, we’re all about strong female characters who take matters into their own hands. Tracy Banghart, author of Grace and Fury, is definitely on the same page. In her novel, two sisters named Serina and Nomi must fight for their independence in a world that systematically oppresses women. Here, Banghart shares seven of her favorite female characters who are anything but bystanders: They demand agency.
One of my favorite things about Camellia in The Belles is her ambition. So often young girls are discouraged from striving for things and having lofty dreams, because ambition is seen as unattractive in a woman. Camellia is unapologetically ambitious. She wants to be the Belle, the queen’s chosen one. She has confidence that she’s good enough and that she’s worked hard enough. When the dark truths of her world start coming to light, she doesn’t accept what she’s been told. She drives her story forward by actively approaching the truth with the same ambition she showed early in the story. I can’t wait to see what she does in The Everlasting Rose.
By definition, Moxie is a novel about girls fighting back and standing up for themselves. At the beginning of the book, Vivian isn’t so great at this. She’s not in control of her own story at all. But that very lack of control, along with the sexism rampant at her school, is what inspires her to make an anonymous feminist zine in the style of the punk rock Riot Grrrls of the ‘90s. What follows is her journey to take control of her story and her power, inspiring the other girls in her school–and this reader! After all, “Moxie girls fight back!”
When we first meet Jessamy, she has already taken charge of her story. She’s been sneaking out to run the Fives, an intricate athletic competition. As her family unravels after a cruel betrayal, she does everything she can to save herself, her sisters, and her mother. It is incredibly thrilling to read her exploits knowing what difficult choices she faces and how completely and utterly she inhabits and drives her story forward. She is the beating heart of Court of Fives, and every action she takes is supported by the character development and internality Kate Elliott has given her. I wish I had Jess’ determination!
Alejandra, or Alex, is a bruja, but she doesn’t want to be. She’s afraid of her own magic and what she’s capable of. So instead of letting her family and her circumstances define her fate, she takes matters into her own hands and performs a spell to get rid of her magic. Except, of course, it backfires. The rest of the book follows Alex as she tries to save her family, and it’s thrilling to watch. One of my favorite things about Alex is that she fails; not all of her choices have the results she hopes for. But she keeps going and finds ways to fix her mistakes.
Jane is a truly stunning addition to this list because she drives her story forward in a racist, colonial world designed to keep her from having any control at all over her own fate. In even the smallest moments, she manages to find ways to be her own person, to resist, and to carve out a space for her needs and desires. And she’s a damn good zombie killer too. Jane takes control of her story in the most satisfying way, overcoming so much adversity. And with a sequel coming, she has more butt-kicking to do!
Mary disguises herself as a boy to work on a ship…until she sees a female pirate, and chases a future where she can be herself, love who she loves, and above all, be free. In a historical period where women were traditionally given little choice, Mary is proactive and aggressive in assuring that she has just that. She finds a way to choose her own future.
In Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning, the main character, Maggie, is a monster hunter in a world remade by a climate apocalypse. She’s also the only one who can help a small town find a missing girl. Maggie’s assertive attitude and determination drive her story forward and lead her to uncover startling truths about herself and her world.
Tracy Banghart grew up in rural Maryland and spent her summers on a remote island in northern Ontario. All of that isolation and lovely scenery gave her the time to read voraciously and the inspiration to write her own stories. Always a bit of a nomad, Tracy now travels the world Army-wife style with her husband, son, cat, and sweet pupper Scrabble. She wrote Grace and Fury, which was released on July 31st, while living in Hawaii. Its sequel will follow in July 2019.