Female protagonists rejoice – it’s Women’s History Month

Book lit graphic

Monica Kast

Every month is a good month to read a book written by a female author or with a strong female protagonist, but Women’s History Month is an especially good time to do so. Whether you’re looking for a celebrity memoir, a classic novel or a newly released novel about life in Alaska, there’s something for almost everyone to enjoy this month as we celebrate women.

“Why Not Me?” by Mindy Kaling

I don’t know what we did to deserve Mindy Kaling, but if you ask me, she’s a national treasure. Her first book, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns),” is a great read, but her second memoir is the perfect one to celebrate Women’s History Month. Kaling is unapologetically herself in “Why Not Me?” She writes honestly and hilariously about being a woman, particularly about being a woman of color in Hollywood. She writes about confidence and appearances with brutal honesty that’s refreshing. Reading “Why Not Me?” feels like hanging out with your best friends talking about your lives. If you need more convincing, here’s a quote from the book that seems fitting to celebrate Women’s History Month: “Well, guess what, young girls. You aren’t damsels in distress. You aren’t hostages to the words of your peers. You aren’t the victims that even your well-meaning teachers and advocates think you are.”

“Emma” by Jane Austen

I’ve read every Jane Austen book, and “Emma” remains my favorite, by far. It follows the life of Emma Woodhouse, a spoiled, well-off woman in England. Emma appoints herself as the local matchmaker and begins meddling in the love lives of those around her. As in most Jane Austen novels, slight disaster ensues, teaching our young protagonist about life and forcing her to grow up a little. While Emma is not immediately likeable, I grew to love her by the end of the book. Jane Austen created a strong female character with a life and a mind of her own. Though there are many male characters, Emma shines as a woman who is unafraid to go after the things she wants. She’s young and privileged and makes mistakes, but I found myself drawn to her more than any other Jane Austen protagonist.  

“The Great Alone” by Kristin Hannah

This novel was just released in February, and I hadn’t heard much about it before picking it up over spring break. It tells the story of Leni Allbright, a young girl who moves to Alaska with her family after her father inherits a piece of land. The Allbright family is completely unprepared for life on the Alaskan frontier, but the community of Kaneq quickly surrounds them and helps them start building their lives there. However, the Allbrights continue to face trouble, as Leni’s father, an alcoholic who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, struggles to face Alaskan winters with a myriad of mental health problems. Leni and her mother, Cora, have to learn to rely on each other for survival in both literal and metaphorical unknown territory. The story follows Leni over many years, and the reader gets to see her become a strong woman who has to fight for nearly everything in her life. Seeing Leni come into her own makes this a perfect pick for celebrating Women’s History Month. 

Print managing editor Monica Kast can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @monica_kast.