On Strong Female Characters

There’s a lot of noise about strong female characters. Here’s one in the flesh. 

In the key moment of the interview, Stewart asked her how she reacted when she learned that the Taliban wanted her dead. Her answer was absolutely remarkable:

I started thinking about that, and I used to think that the Talib would come, and he would just kill me. But then I said, ‘If he comes, what would you do Malala?’ then I would reply to myself, ‘Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.’  But then I said, ‘If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.’ Then I said I will tell him how important education is and that ‘I even want education for your children as well.’ And I will tell him, ‘That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.’

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/malala-yousafzai-left-jon-stewart-speechless-2013-10#ixzz2hLZlDacm

One of the more absurd ways a book quote of mine has ever been used. Also, I didn’t personally say this – a dog character in Elsewhere did.

Tuesday Hijinks, No. 8: You know you’re in Los Angeles when the cashier at the hotel gift shop gives you a handwritten list of her favorite documentaries. 

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, April 2012

Hi, I like your books — esp. Elsewhere. A nosy question… A while ago I remember reading on your webpage that you don’t exactly dislike “annoyingly-social” YA writers, but it’s the Web presence/marketing-ness that made you uncomfortable, as if it obliged you to go out and hustle. (or something like that). It’s been a while since you wrote it, and I was wondering, after more years in the biz, did this change? Only asking, as that little comment quite comforted the loner in me…

This is going to be a multi-part answer.

1) In the last year or so, I have made peace with being online. I want people to read my books; being online seems to be an aspect of the job of author these days.

2) On the other hand, I think it’s sad that people can’t experience books separate from writers anymore. It’s worth noting that “liking an author” is not at all the same thing as “liking a novel” – and yet I’m not sure many young readers bother to note the difference. And when we make our book-buying decisions based on an author being, say, “funny on twitter,” we are not necessarily buying the best books. Books should not be tribute gifts because authors are amusing. There are several deeply amusing people on Twitter who write boring, pedestrian novels.

3) The flip side again: Just because an author is antisocial doesn’t mean his/her books aren’t beautiful/wonderful/life-changing/amazing. Authors are not always their books. (And books are sometimes more interesting than tweets.)

4) I am still a loner and I still struggle with all of this. I sometimes wish I weren’t online at all. I think, for instance, I am adding nothing to twitter except “sound and fury signifying nothing.” (emphasis on nothing)… I still believe in deliberation and reflection before airing an opinion for the world to see. (The reason I like tumblr, by the way, is because I am impressed by  the variety of interests and curatorial* skill you see on it.)

5) On the other hand — that’s my third hand — I like communicating with readers. I like being able to say thank you to those who have enjoyed my books and chosen to tell me so in a thoughtful manner.

6)  And so I’m trying to stop fighting everything. I take a deep breath and remind myself of the E.M. Forster quote: “only connect.”


*I know people are sensitive about using the word curatorial outside of a museum context, but I am using it anyway.

Two quotes I like from Emily Eakin’s New Yorker article about the Tacita Dean film/installation at the Tate Modern:

“All the things I’m attracted to are about to disappear,” she likes to say.

“For a long while almost everyone will continue to say ‘film’ when they are actually referring to something else,” Alexander Horwath, the director of the Austrian Film Museum, noted.

Photo Credit: Sarah Lee for the Guardian