How My 5 Favorite Childhood Heroines Inspire Me To Resist As An Adult

by Kerri Jarema
Columbia Pictures

In the months since Donald Trump has become president, more and more people have become inspired to join the Resistance — whether that means volunteering, campaigning, donating, making calls, educating themselves and others on the issues, or otherwise. Bustle's 31 Days of Reading Resistance takes a look at the role of literature and writing in the Resistance, both as a source of inspiration and as a tool for action.

Resistance looks different for all of us. For some it's getting out onto the streets to protest, signs high, fist raised, voices loud. For others, the idea of being out in an unruly and overlarge crowd (*raises hand timidly*) is uncomfortable at best, anxiety inducing at worst. So, what do we do? We volunteer, we share the news, we talk to friends and family who may not be as politically engaged, we make phone calls, send emails, educate ourselves on the issues, and write articles. All of these actions are pieces of the big puzzle that makes up resistance, and all of them are just as important as any other. But it can sometimes feel hard to see people getting out to the rallies and parades and protests when its just not in my wheelhouse; sometimes it can feel like I'm just not doing enough to make my voice heard.

One thing that has been a surprising help with cultivating my own personal brand of resistance has been looking to some of my favorite childhood heroines for inspiration. This wasn't something I did consciously, but these characters have all been on my mind for months (and always, really) in one way or another. I often find myself striving toward the best of these young women in my own life, even more so now that I need the push toward boldness, braveness and the gumption I have so admired in them for most of my life.


Anne Shirley might not be the first character that comes to mind when you think of political and social resistance. These books in general don't delve too much into politics at all. But, perhaps because I first read the books as an adult (though I was obsessed with the PBS miniseries as a child) Anne has become synonymous with a certain mindset in my adulthood that has everything to do with sustainable resistance. Anne is optimism, hope, perseverance personified. For her, there is always a new day with no mistakes in it, a chance to create something new, to change things for the better. Any time I think a problem is insurmountable, or that my voice is too soft to make an impact, I think about Anne and her quiet commitment to dreaming big and standing up for herself (hotheaded though it made her seem) and I am bolstered.

Warner Bros.

Hermione Granger is my main gal when it comes to this new age of resistance. Because for her, the method is always to learn more. To read more. To understand the evils she is standing up against in the most complete way possible to know just exactly how to fight them in the most efficient and impactful way available to her. She might be a Gryffindor like me, but unlike someone like, say, Harry Potter, she is not one to jump into a fight without the utmost preparation. And for me, reading and writing and sharing stories is the part of the resistance that is the not only the most comfortable; it is the thing that I am best at. And Hermione constantly reminds me that being the bookish one is an asset in every resistance. Because knowledge is power and I'm more driven now than ever to seek it.

Columbia Pictures

I have said this before, but as an adult I have fancied myself a Claudia Kishi because, well, she was the coolest. But in actuality I am much more of a Kristy Thomas in my adult life than any of the other girls in the Baby-Sitters Club. She is the ideas gal, the one who has all of these grand plans... and then actually executes them. She figures out how to make something better, and then does just that. She rallies her friends and gets them all involved. She is flawed, sure. She's a a bit of a steamroller, a little self-absorbed. But she reminds me that working on my projects and my career is important, especially when those things help aid in my own personal resistance. Writing about diverse books, interviewing women about feminism and race and culture and sharing those stories? All powerful ways to make a difference.

Paramount Pictures

This is another case of being obsessed with the film version of a book before actually reading it, but I would be lying if I said that Harriet the Spy did not have a massive impact on me creatively as a child. Not only did she definitely make me want to keep a journal, she made me more curious about the world around me, and made me want to write it all down. Though a problematic middle grade heroine to be sure, Harriet is an incredibly meaningful character for me these days. Because she stands up for her passions even when no one understands them. She is a witness to not only what is happening around her, but to what is happening to herself, finding her own meaning and her own power in her work, and in her life. Harriet tells her own story, in her own totally unique way.

Now, I loved this book as a child, but running away from home would never have appealed to me then (and still doesn't now if I'm being totally honest.) What I loved about Claudia then, though, and what I love about now in this time of resistance, is her inability to let others control her. She went for what she wanted without apology. She wanted to live an adventure, so she went off and she lived one. When I think about the way women in our reality are still fighting for so many of their freedoms, are still fighting to be taken seriously in professions, to be paid the same amount as their male counterparts, I think of brave Claudia, who did not take any obstacles ahead of her as roadblocks but rather as hurdles that she could, and would, jump over. And she reminds me to do the same.

Follow along all month long for more Reading Resistance book recommendations.