By Sufia Banu:
But why will your daughter need to read these books? Your daughter needs a mentor and you might not be the best person for the job. Let’s face the sour fact, growing up is hard, much harder than parents usually fathom. Our so-called culturally correct society churns out we-know-it-all-parents who are of the opinion that ‘real life’ begins when you become an adult i.e. when you marry and start pushing out babies. They fail to perceive the simple fact that a teenager’s life is as important to a teenager as an adult’s life is to an adult. Yet we are constantly demeaned by the popular grunt “What do you know? You’re a kid.” Contrary to common belief, personalities are not inherited, instead they are developed by the experiences an individual goes through in her/his childhood and teenage days.
Adulthood is an extension of our childhood. In a country teeming with over 440 billion children, it is high time for adults to understand the need of properly fostering the little one’s so that in future they can become the face of a self-assured and progressive India. And when it comes to ‘growing up’, it is a very difficult phase.
The tragedy of being a girl in India
The tragedy of being a girl in India has many folds; and one is confused about where to begin. Do not make the mistake of thinking such problems are passÃ© or that they are found only in rural areas. For me, in spite of growing up in a metropolitan suburb I’ve always been aware of the so-called ‘woman problem’ prevailing in the society that made me ashamed of my constantly changing body, ashamed of being more ambitious than feminine, ashamed of being called bossy when I was simply showing leadership skills.
Girls are taught to be far more self-critical that renders into making them less self-assured. Girls are taught to be asexual, they are taught that boys will approach (which is taken for granted), but they should not respond. And they absolutely need to learn cooking, doesn’t matter if they become professional women because in their ‘real home’ they’ll have to feed their husbands who will probably have a more serious day job than theirs. Studies have shown that both boys and girls, at their infancy have identical crawling abilities and risk-taking abilities. In spite of this,Â girls are branded as ‘non-risk takers’ and they grow up believing they are wonderful and weak.
On a personal note
Now it’s easy to understand why girls require mentors. Mentors are people who empower and inspire. Personally speaking, while growing up, my intelligent mother’s conscious submission to her less-intelligent and abusive husband ended any expectation of help or mentorship from her. So I always suffered the want of an elder sister, someone who’d be clear-sighted, emotionally honest, self assured, mature, understanding, forgiving, clever and would know the tricks of facing the brutal world. She’d be someone who’d lead the way for me. Unfortunately I never had any elder sister. But on the brink of adulthood, suddenly one day I discovered my mentors — Elizabeth Bennet (from Jane Austen’s novel Pride & Prejudice) and Jane Eyre (from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre). They showered light on the correct path and since then, my life has changed. Believe me, I am not bluffing.
5 books with strong female characters
In order to inspire young girls to ignore the stupid stereotypical expectations and restrictions of the society I would like to recommend 5 books with strong female characters who would hopefully lead their way. In the words of Charles William Eliot, your daughter needs to read the following books simply because “books are the quietest and most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.”
1. The Hunger Games Trilogy:Â This one breaks a number of stereotypes where some major long reserved roles of male characters are attributed to the female lead. Katniss Everdeen is a hunter and the sole bread-earner of her family. Our kick-ass heroin portrays an ability to fight for self-preservation with the kind of tremendous determination that women are rarely accredited with.
2. Jane Eyre: It’s not strictly speaking a young-adult book; never-the-less a great literature encompasses everyone. 19 years-old Jane, having suffered a horrid childhood learns to give kindness in return of cruelty. She learns independence through loneliness, hardship, persecution and death. Written in first person perspective, Jane Eyre reminds us of the strength one can gain from knowing one’s own mind.
3. The Book Thief: Sent to live with an unknown family in the midst of a terrible war, 9-year-old Liesel Meminger manages to survive and along the way help others survive, by feeding off books that she steals. She is daring, kind, clever and unforgettable.
4. The Fault in Our Stars: In this book our teen protagonist is diagnosed with thyroid cancer and falls for another cancer diagnosed boy. Sparks fly only momentarily as they are constantly reminded about their numbering days. It is an unpredictable, emotional, realistic and heart melting piece of work. With this book popular young adult author John Green ventured with a female voice for the first time and created Hazel Grace Lancaster a strong teenage girl faced with her own mortality.
5. Little Women: A beloved children’s classic that revolves around four March sisters. But our real heroin is Jo March. Her ambitious and un-lady like behaviour, bold and out spoken temperament makes her quiet a spitfire. Without endeavouring to fall into the norm she makes herself an asset to her family by starting to earn money. Jo teaches us to celebrate our quirky uniqueness and feminine strength.