30 DoB Day 16: Favorite Female Character

Somehow I think this meme is going to end up being the 30 weeks of books instead of the 30 Days of Books.  Maybe I’ll get two in this week.  Which brings us to today’s:

Day 16 – Favorite female character

It’s funny, there weren’t as many female favorite characters that immediately leapt to mind as did for the “favorite male character” – maybe that’s because I never read much Austen or Alcott growing up – or maybe being a guy I just have a harder time connecting – or maybe it’s that women have usually played a supporting or subservient role in fantasy and science fiction.

Anyway, as I thought about this question a pair of young women came to mind: one real, one fictional.

Anne Frank was a young German girl whose family moved to Amsterdam before the start of the Second World War.  I’m sure that you know the story – being Jewish, she and her family had to hide from the Nazi authorities.  While in hiding for two years, she wrote in her diary – and from her writing we get a history that is not about politics or propaganda or armies or treaties.

Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank

Her story is so tragic of course, because in the end she and her family were found out and shipped to concentration camps.  Anne died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen just a few weeks before the camp was liberated in 1945.  Anne wrote about her dreams of growing up and becoming a great journalist/writer and being able to create something great that would make her famous – not knowing of course that she would never grow up and that, in fact, she already had.

Liesel Meminger is the subject of the excellent young-adult book The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.  While I listened to the audiobook earlier this year,  I felt that Anne Frank was always right around the corner.  Leisel was a young orphan girl taken in by a family in a Munich suburb in the years before the War.  There, she learned a love of reading from her step-father (Hans Hubermann – whose quiet dignity would allow him to enjoy dinner and a drink with Atticus Finch).  As the winds of war begin to change the lives of Liesel and her friends – i.e. rationing, conscription of their parents, forcing them to sign up for Hitler Youth – her family hides a Jewish man in their basement.  In time, Max leaves to try and escape from Germany and Allied bombers begin to pulverize Munich and its environs.  As Anne Frank told the story of the War from the “good guys” side, Liesel’s naiveté gives us a view from inside the other side and reminding us that those caught up in war aren’t always the enemy.

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

These two young German girls – in a way a reflection of each other – I think will always stay in my head together.


10 thoughts on “30 DoB Day 16: Favorite Female Character

  1. Good choice – I think that Frank is a character who makes us not regret reading the story, even though it was so grim. Too bad there’s not many female characters who can stand on their own and be relatable to anyone.

    • Emmy — I was surprised how long I had to think before coming up with strong female protagonists. Maybe I’m reading the wrong books… but I don’t think so.

  2. Anne Frank inspired me as a little girl to keep my first journal. She was honest and forthright: she made me realize the best writers don’t hide their feelings. When I saw the house in Amsterdam where she and her family hid, it seemed unreal—the claustrophobic room she lived in and the need to be absolutely silent during the day while the offices below were open must have made that honesty she practiced an act of courage.

    When I read Philip Roth’s The Ghost Writer years later, I was somewhat irate with Roth’s treatment of Anne Frank, who becomes an idealization of Jewish heroism and the Holocaust. It begins as an interesting story, but you sense Roth’s resentment at having to compete with a dead girl’s reputation and fame. I wondered at the end whose reputation as a great writer would survive, Frank’s, or Roth’s.

    • I think what is so humanizing about Anne Frank is that at time she’s “just a girl” — whimsical, petty, silly — definitely NOT written by someone that is trying to be the “spokesperson” for their people. In that vein, I’ve tried to read Roth a couple of times (since he’s a “great” writer) and he’s never caught on with me.

  3. Anne Frank is a great choice. Her voice is so honest as she shares her hours of boredom, youthful dreams and sheer moments of terror. I need to read the Book Thief.

    • jenny — yes, I think it’s that spectrum of emotion that gives Anne’s journal such authenticity. It’s easy to insert your young self there — she’s not a metaphor for anything.

      I really enjoyed The Book Thief — which I didn’t know was supposed to be “young-adult” until after I started — I think the only thing that makes it YA maybe is that it’s a very linear plot, but it’s great. Well worthwhile.

  4. I love love love The Book Thief. So glad you found it, Australian authors aren’t always that well known out in the big world. They study it at school here now in some classes.

    • Jane — The Book Thief had been recommended by so many people that I know I was really interested to hear it (I got the audiobook). I didn’t know that Zusak was an Australian author until after I was finished and read up on him and the book a little bit. What a great book for students — as kids have to watch adults make decisions (which they are more or less powerless in) and then face their own choices.

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