“Scared is what you're feeling. Brave is what you're doing.” —Emma Donoghue, Room
I’ve had bravery on the brain—thanks to our trusty intern. He sent me a link about books featuring courageous kids on the same day that the Vietnamese girl who gives me French tips cupped my face over the nail counter and said, “you are the strongest person I know Tracy.” My eyes revealed disbelief, shock too. I’m a big believer that the most important thing a woman can have, next to talent and conviction, is her hairdresser and second to that, her manicurist because they make us feel pretty and they’re exquisite listeners. Still I couldn’t help but think that I’d failed my nail girl somehow—that I hadn’t given her enough books filled with fearless characters. The kind that inspire and embolden us, that strengthen us vicariously.
So this post is for you Vicki. Here are a few completely worthwhile reads featuring new compadres who are plucky, dauntless, and lionhearted. One of them is sure to uncover the real strongest person you know.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
You have to be plenty tough to live with a tyrannical aunt and appalling cousins. It’s never easy to live with daily ridicule. When resilient Jane is sent away to school, life is no less difficult. But her most trying experience comes later as a governess at Thornfield Hall. Keeping love at bay requires great restraint and composure. Her fierceness in the face of pain is not only commendable, it’s remarkable. I’m with China Mieville: “Charlotte Bronte’s heroine towers over those around her, morally, intellectually and aesthetically; she’s completely admirable and compelling. Never camp, despite her Gothic surrounds, she takes a scalpel to the skin of every day.” Way to go Jane!
Wonder by R.J. Palaccio
I couldn’t agree more with the author of the article Be Brave. Be Just. Be Kind: 8 Inspiring Books featuring Courageous Kids. Auggie Pullman has the heart of a lion. Any ten-year-old who has to deal with a jarring facial deformity must be strong to survive kids’ cruelty. When he enters public school for the first time, he is forced to cope with a range of reactions, most of them humiliating, to his unsightly appearance. Auggie showed me that strength comes from within and can quickly grow to indomitable status if we work at it.
I could go on…and on. Janie Mae Crawford from Their Eyes Were Watching God comes to mind. Anne of Green Gables, Karen Blixen of Out of Africa, and The Book Thief, Liesel Meminger. But I’ll finish with one I discovered from the article that I’d like to read next with my boys at bedtime. I’d like to meet Perry Cook. Something tells me his bravery is big to live in a correctional facility with his inmate mother. Even braver still to endure a new life with a new family on the outside. I’m interested to see how he summons strength to perform maybe the toughest task of all: forgiveness.