the girl someone should write a book about

I used to write books alongside a friend, growing up. We just hung out and wrote. All of her girl characters were incredibly pretty in exactly the way you’d expect. They all had enormous eyes and rosebud lips and little slips of noses. They all had cascades of brilliant hair, and slender, long necks. I got mad at her.

“Why are they all like that?” I asked.

“Because it’s fun to read about pretty people,” she said.

“But what if girls can’t identify with them?” I said.

“Girls want to be more like the girls in books. They want to look more like them, too,” she said. “You don’t want to read about someone who isn’t really pretty because you want to imagine being really pretty.”

I didn’t think I wasn’t really pretty. I thought I was unexpected. We were only fifteen when we had this discussion. Later on, I became less sure of my different-beauty. Sometimes, automatically, I identified with the girl who was described as unattractive. The beak-nosed woman or the girl the boys weren’t in love with. It’s back and forth now. Sometimes I am the unattractive one. Sometimes I’m the beauty. Because I am some swirling combination of these things, and lots of things in between, I think. And I’m still looking for clues about how I’m supposed to identify.

Recently, I was reading yet another book about a girl with a “perfect nose.” Every time a female character is described as having the “perfect nose,” I know exactly what it will look like: the opposite of mine. It will be delicate and small and fine. It will never be bulky and arched and bold. It will never dominate her face. Of course not. That would be ridiculous.

 

Even the things I chose to do with my appearance, that I didn’t come into the world with, are not the things that girls in books would ever do, if they’re going to stay pretty:

On the first page of a book I picked up, a girl is described as having shaved her head because she’s “crazy.” The male protagonist is musing, “I have to get out of this city where the women are so crazy they shave their heads. I want a normal woman, you know, with hair.” This is a joke in the book. Of course normal women have hair. It’s a small request. The crazy bald girl is left immediately behind.

In the book I’m reading now, a character contemplates cutting her hair short in a moment of defiance. But then she stops herself at the last minute, realizing that she’s not that self-destructive. She’s not that far gone.

When I cut my hair off, of course I knew that it wasn’t normal (although I see women with hair as short as mine plenty in this city. Hell yeah, NYC!), but I didn’t think that made it crazy or unhealthy or ugly. Perhaps naively, I am surprised when the world disagrees.

(oops! too late! I don’t have any hair left!)

But literature is full of examples of specifically adorable (long-haired) women. And it’s sort of amazing how happy I am when I run into one who isn’t.

Someone whose beauty isn’t described as “effortless.” Women are always being praised for being effortlessly gorgeous. They don’t even know it! They just are! Even when they just wake up! Even when they haven’t taken a shower in weeks! Even when they’re covered in ticks and leeches!

I used to think I was effortlessly beautiful. And then it turned out I was just a teenager.

Now I usually look better when I got sleep last night and I washed myself and I put on some clothes that are at least a little flattering. And when I stand up somewhat straight.

It’s kind of amazing how influenced I am by the way beauty gets described to me by the world. There are a million tiny message, everywhere I turn, about what makes someone beautiful. I think I know them all. Even when I don’t care, and I’m not thinking about any of this at all, it still registers somewhere in the soup of my consciousness. “She was perfect—the kind of girl every boy would fall in love with, even in preschool. You know the kind—big, doe eyes, a pert little nose with a spray of freckles across it, a wide, laughing mouth, and billows of golden hair. Her coltish legs made her look fragile and fast at the same time.” Mmhmm…figures.

I’m not bitter. I swear. But I notice.

And then I notice when she’s different. Flat-chested! I already love her! Snarl-haired! Yes! Of average height. Not tall and slender, not tiny and delicate. Hooray! Is she a little soft? Fantastic! Maybe she has short hair? We’ll take just above the chin! She’s my kinda girl.

But she is almost never soft and flat-chested at the same time. And she would never, ever, ever be soft and flat-chested and big-nosed and of average height. That just doesn’t work. Of course it doesn’t work. We all know that it doesn’t work.

Except that anything can work on real, breathing, grinning people.

I know. I’ve seen it. 

In life, as in literature, I notice the girls and women who are differently beautiful. You know what I mean. Not like “Oh, everyone is beautiful in their own way.” Like, YES. She is rocking it! I have never seen that before, and I didn’t think it could be done. And she is doing it.

The woman I saw for a half an hour, sitting across from me at an event about unschooling. She had gray hair in a buzz cut, long before I thought about buzzing my hair. She was full-bodied and broad-shouldered and sharp-featured and graceful. She was a professor at FIT, I’ll never forget that. She was stunning in this way that I can’t even explain. Weirdly, I felt reflexively proud of her husband, sitting beside her, for being with a woman this cool-looking.

It is so nice, so refreshing, to run into someone like that. Someone who opens up this whole world of other possibilities.

An older woman, she must have been in her mid seventies, in jeans and a plain white t-shirt, with her long white hair in a ponytail, and a craggy, elegant face. No breasts to speak of, but something hugely feminine about the way she moved.

I like it when it’s older women. Women I can maybe one day become.

They are rarely described to me at all, let alone described as beautiful.

Someone pulled me aside at a party my mom threw. “Your grandmother is gorgeous,” he said. A handsome gay man comfortable saying such things. But at first, I thought maybe he was joking a little, being sweet. Do people really think that, outside of the family? And then I was enormously thankful that he had said it.

It’s interesting how used to the same descriptions we are. How we have memorized all of the variations of prettiness. We have read them all. We have seen them all on TV.

But I want to write a book with a heroine who is 5’5″, with a nose like a hawk, and gentle eyes, and full lips, and broad shoulders, and barely any breasts. I haven’t done it yet, for some reason. I wimp out at the last second, afraid that no one will want to read it. That my friend was right. People want to imagine the same pretty girls, over and over. Or if she is so different-looking, then the book will have to be about that, somehow. I write girl characters who I never describe at all.

When I was fifteen, I wrote because I wanted to read my own stories. Maybe this is the start of all writers.

I want to be braver. I want to be more selfish about my stories. And I want to write a character who is short and fat and mixed race, with fine hair and thin lips and a wide, snub nose, and eyes that cut through you. An elderly, stunning woman. A woman who you can’t figure out if she’s beautiful or not, and you stop trying almost immediately, because she’s too interesting for you even to waste time on it. Women who are full of surprises. Who look surprising. You didn’t think they would be starring. You didn’t expect them to be so fascinating. You didn’t expect people to fall madly in love with them. To want to be them.

(a reader named Laurie Skelton drew this for me when I wrote similarly about the lack of Disney princesses I could identify with as a girl. I thought a lot about this drawing as I was writing this post. It’s still the best thing ever)

It’s amazing how sensitive I am. How much I notice the way women are described. It’s amazing how relieved I am, when I meet a character who looks even a little like me. Or who looks even a little different from what I expect her to. It’s a breath of fresh air, after having been underwater without knowing it. It’s a treat. It’s a shock of green against a desert vista.

It’s a really good reason to be a writer.

Who knows what stories we’ll tell tomorrow? Next year. In ten years.

I think there will be some surprising women in them.

(source)

*  *  *

What would your heroine look like?

Unroast: Today I love the way I have gotten comfortable in more revealing clothing, for the summer. It’s convenient. I like when I don’t stop to think what people might be thinking.

 

54 Comments »

Kate on July 3rd 2012 in beauty, being different, writing

54 Responses to “the girl someone should write a book about”

  1. Garden1303 responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 1:24 pm #

    Like and LOVE!

  2. Emily responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    I came across your blog pretty recently, and I must say, I am now a devoted stalker :)
    I find myself identifying with so many of your posts. I too was unschooled growing up, am married, have a passion for writing, and struggled with poor self image most of my life. Thanks so much for doing what you do!
    In answer to your question, the last heroine I made up that I really liked was five feet tall, curvy, with big hair, a pointy nose, and more sass than she knew what to do with.

  3. Kate responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 1:43 pm #

    @Emily
    Yay!! I love her. Did you read the Enchanted Forest Chronicles as a kid? I loved Cimorene for her sass. She was an exception to the rule! I want to plop her down in quite a few of the books I’m reading now.

    And that’s awesome, about our similarities! Clearly, we need to get together for some cake. Where are you living?

  4. Lina responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    I really hope you do write that book, about a non-cookie cutter type of heroine. Because, I would read it and I would rave about it, as I am sure many other girls/ladies out there will. :)

  5. Farida responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 1:53 pm #

    I always have a thoughts about this, why women or gurls characters in the novels and stories should be pretty ? long think hair , in most cases straight ? I really don’t understand these standards and I used to hate this ! and still ,,,glad that you wrote about this

  6. Kate responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 2:01 pm #

    @Lina
    Now I just need a plot!

  7. Val responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 2:02 pm #

    This is one of the many things I like about Anne Tyler novels–the people look like people and are great characters while looking normal, lol.

    love, Val (who also has a challenging nose)

  8. Emily responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 2:02 pm #

    @ Kate
    I am in Toledo Ohio, I didn’t read the enchanted forest Chronicles, but I might check it out because I still enjoy children’s stories, perhaps overly much. If I am ever in the NY I might have to take you up on the cake, or at least a frappe with whip cream and chocolate syrup. The similarities don’t just stop there, we are in a “wife, husband, roommate” situation right now, and have a brother named Gabe, it’s mostly just little things, but it cracks me up.

  9. Celynne responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    My heroines are handsome. It seems like ‘handsome’ is something only men are allowed to be. I like to think my own facial features are handsome in comparison to pretty. Strong, bold, handsome women are those I would like to see more of in tales and stories. But women are forced to be pretty, waiflike, delicate, things that automatically put us in lower more needy positions.

  10. Abby responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    Interesting and thought-provoking as always!

    I’m not really sure what my heroine would look like…I think, like you, that I would love to have a heroine look like me. So many times, the strong heroines I enjoy reading about (the first example that comes to my mind is Alanna the Lioness by Tamora Pierce…heroine, for some reason, makes me think of fantasy as opposed to my usual young adult genre) are always very slender and usually have a ‘boyish’ frame or something. They can be “curvy,” but always in proportion. Their boobs are never too big. They’re always very—I think ‘delicate’ is the right word, always very feminine even though they’re strong and brave and kickass.

    I am the opposite of delicate, at least physically. I am tall and wide and have large breasts. I’m technically an “hourglass shape” (although I really have stopped trying to figure out what ‘shape’ I am, because shapes can come in such a variety), but I still have a big stomach. Honestly, what I would love in a heroine is to see someone who is big and tall and NOT just another matronly character, someone who is large and still feminine and delicate…but not all the time. I don’t know if that makes any sense? Someone who is “too much,” like I sometimes am, too tall or too fat or too busty, but maybe somehow makes it work.

    Also, I would love to read about a heroine who actually experiences the problems that come with being big-busted. Y’know, like getting stuck when they’re trying to fit through somewhere, or being unable to do a certain pose in exercises, or worrying about their boobs falling out when they roll down a hill (I decided I didn’t care and rolled down the hill anyway). Just…I’m having trouble explaining it. But a sense of realism. A sense of being able to relate to someone. Even in fantasy, even in a completely different genre.

    So we might be in different ends of the spectrum, but I think we’re both looking for people we can relate to. Though for the record, I am totally with you on the noses–my nose is very wide, and definitely inherited, and it took me a long time to fall in love with it. I would love to see a character with a wide nose.

  11. Melanie responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 2:53 pm #

    I have never identified physically with a female lead character, but I never really cared that I didn’t either. I am completely on the other end of the spectrum. I know that I’m awesome as a larger girl. I don’t need someone to write stories with larger girls as the heroes in them to know that. I figure society is going to find a lot of stuff attractive that I don’t, as it always has. And that’s okay. We need to raise girls/women to not care. I don’t compare myself to my “pretty” friends, nor do I compare myself to characters in a book or movie. I just try and be a good person and I compare myself to the lady I want to be. The one who listens better and doesn’t have such horrible anxiety.

  12. Abby responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    @Kate

    The Enchanted Forest Chronicles were one of my favorite series! My favorite character might have been Morwen, but Cimorene was a close second. They were both so strong and independent, as well as unconventionally beautiful. Also I loved the idea of living alone with 9 cats.

  13. Kate responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    @Abby
    MORWEN!!!!!!!!!!! OH MY GOD I FORGOT ABOUT HER!!!!!

  14. Kate responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 2:58 pm #

    @Melanie
    You’re so cool. I love that you don’t care. I wish I was more like you.
    But I do care. I always seem to have a little more room for caring a little more. And while I want to one day raise a daughter who doesn’t care either, I also want her world to be full of characters who remind her of herself. Just in case :-)

  15. Kate responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 2:59 pm #

    @Emily
    Are you serious?? Also, isn’t Gabe the best name? Is your brother also awesome?

    Please come visit me sometime!

    And please read the books. I might read them again myself now…

  16. Lina responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    @Kate

    Ahah! Hit me up, Kate! I’m just starting out as an editor for a small company and writing online ads, so anything that takes me out of work, I’m all for it :)

  17. Kate responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    @Lina
    Ooh, an editor! I love editors.
    If I think of something, I’ll throw it your way!

  18. Melanie responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 3:14 pm #

    @Kate,
    Agreed. It would be nice if our daughters could have role models that remind them of them. But I still think it’s important to have the discussion why it’s not necessary to have role models who LOOK like them. We should teach people to stop focusing on the shell. Then we wouldn’t have people killing themselves to obtain physical “perfection” in the first place.

  19. Lina responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 3:15 pm #

    @Kate

    I’ll be waiting in anticipation :)
    I really absolutely adore your style of writing, now if only I can inject that into my team’s style too, that’d be awesome!

  20. Kate responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    @Melanie
    I’m totally with you. But also, I can’t help but feel like the way I look is so much more than a shell. Maybe that’s because of the way the world presents beauty to us. Maybe it’s because it’s just really hard to separate ourselves completely from the physical, no matter what. Our bodies are important. They’re not the most important thing, but they’re a big deal. Now…how to make that big deal a positive thing…Maybe just less emphasis on women’s bodies being the most important thing about them? That would be better.

  21. Kate responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    @Lina
    Thank you!!! Just make your team read my blog ;-)

  22. Melanie responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 4:17 pm #

    @Kate,
    Yes! If we could make them not the most important thing, I think that would help. Maybe shift focus on eating and being healthy, without girls having to worry about if their nose is pretty enough, or their boobs are perfect enough. I think we’ll get there some day, I just don’t think it’ll be in my lifetime.

  23. Kate responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 4:30 pm #

    @Melanie
    Shifting the focus to enjoying our bodies is a great idea. I really want that to happen.
    And I wish I could go back and do things over again, this time without ever even thinking about my nose.

  24. SolariC responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 5:08 pm #

    I liked this post – I find conventionally beautiful heroines boring, so I seldom write about them. I have a half-Latina girl who has a big, imperious nose and is still beautiful. I have a half-Asian girl who is very short with pink hair. I have a white female composer who is 6′ tall, skinny as a rail, with bony, handsome features. I have a single mother who has big hips and breasts and a broad, Nordic face. It’s so much more fun to write about people who are attractive in their individuality, instead of because they conform to some arbitrary norm. The same goes for real people: it’s the uncommon faces (like yours, in fact) that we all remember best.

  25. Kate responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 5:10 pm #

    @SolariC
    I’m glad you’re a writer. I already want to read everything about the characters you’re mentioning.

  26. J responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 6:54 pm #

    I think reading about someone who’s described as the paradigm of beauty is a bit like reading about someone who’s “the chosen one” for whatever epic task. Most of us aren’t chosen for any particular grand destiny, and most of us don’t usually feel like the paradigm of beauty. (Although sometimes…!) It’s escapist in either case…
    But all stories aren’t epics, and not all characters should have epic beauty. And the tone of all epics doesn’t benefit from epic beauty anyway.

    But most importantly…epic beauty doesn’t need a pert slip of a nose! Or enormous, melting doe eyes…plush red lips…cascades of silken honey hair…Like you, I love reading and writing about characters with diverse appearances. And some of my characters do have pert noses. But a lot of them have thick noses, or prominent noses. Some of them are petite and graceful. But some of them are stocky, or skinny, or very tall, or plump.

    Honestly, isn’t diversity half the fun of imaginary (and real) people?

  27. Emily responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 9:04 pm #

    @ kate
    Gabe is awesome, he plays drums and causes trouble

  28. contrary kiwi responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 9:08 pm #

    I don’t understand why long, blonde hair is considered the epitome of beautiful hair. It’s not offensive, and on some people it even looks quite nice, but I certainly would never imagine blonde hair to be part of my perfect heroine.

    I like long, wild, dark brown or black hair. The sort that can never be brushed and is always doing its own thang. Of course, my hair is incredibly short and usually pink or blue or green, so that’s good too.

    I’m really posting to thank you, Kate, for giving me the name of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. I loved reading those books when I was younger and I really, really wanted to find them again but could remember absolutely nothing concrete enough to hunt for them by. Now I’ve found them! I love you!

  29. Maya responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 10:28 pm #

    One of the (many, varied) things that I’m proud of my parents for is that I never, ever disliked my very Jewish nose, as a teenager. At various times I hated my cheeks, lips, eyes, etc- but never my nose, which was probably the most likely culprit. But my mother always complimented my nose, and I never thought to question that- and so I’ve always liked it.

    And as for elderly protagonists- if you haven’t before, read Madeleine L’Engle’s A Severed Wasp. It’s a delightful, beautiful book, with an elderly heroine who I’ve always been able to connect to, even when I first read the book as a teenager.

  30. Melanie Kristy responded on 03 Jul 2012 at 11:18 pm #

    I like to read books with characters I can identify with, even if it’s just in bits and piece and I know that if you wrote a book with a middle height character who isn’t effortlessly pretty or flawless or cute with a little button nose or whatever that people will read it. People will read it because they can identify with the character. They’ll also read it because of the story. Because maybe that story will have nothing to do with the fact that your character isn’t gorgeous. Maybe that’ll just be how she is. And that’s that. Or maybe not. Maybe she’s self conscious about her looks. Maybe people will read it because they’re also self conscious and they want to figure out how this character deals.

    I just know people will read your fiction because it will be honest and true and speak to readers in ways that some stories never will. (How do I know this? Because your blog does that very thing).

    xo
    Melanie. Kristy

  31. Kate responded on 04 Jul 2012 at 6:28 am #

    Awesome post!

    Ever since I cut my hair into a bob, I find it difficult to find characters in books and film that I relate to. Specifically, I’ve never come across with a girl with short hair in films and in books that men fall in love with. Especially brunettes. The only one I can think of is “Something About Mary”. IT’s bizarre, having had loads of Disney princesses and characters to relate to, and how much of that identification is hair-related.

  32. Laurie S. responded on 04 Jul 2012 at 10:07 am #

    AH! Kate! Thanks for sticking that picture up again! I’m glad you still dig it. It’s one of my favorite doodles. You have striking features and were a pleasure to draw.

  33. Alexandra responded on 04 Jul 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    I’ve just discovered your blog and wanted to say how much reading your words has moved, challenged and entertained me these past few weeks! This post in particular speaks to me, and how my vision of my body and self has changed in the years from 15 to my late 20s, and is still something that quivers and wavers and much as it peaks and swells…thank you for your honesty about the things I think we all think about, and often have trouble expressing :o )

  34. lea.l responded on 04 Jul 2012 at 2:53 pm #

    That drawing is pure undiluted awesomeness.

    Just to add to the list of stories with untraditional(ly beautiful)-looking and untraditional-acting women as heroines – you should check out Mira Grant’s novel ‘Feed’, part of an ongoing series and recently finished trilogy.

    Her protagonist George (short for Georgia) is a young journalist most certainly defying the conventionally accepted standards for female fantasy/sci-fi heroines and yet her story isn’t ABOUT that.
    (It’s largely about zombies and journalistic integrity and the US political circuit. I can’t quite remember right now whether you ever commented on being into or not being into zombie novels, but in any case, I recommend it.)

  35. Anna responded on 04 Jul 2012 at 7:15 pm #

    Whenever I used to write my characters would always look like my friends and I. The main would be a blonde with annoyingly straight hair, a large, Roman nose, and a mole like Marilyn Monroe’s, the best friend would be tall and clumzy, with uncontrollable but thin bronze hair, and was every Dutch cliche in looks, excluding her nose, which came from her Jewish grandmother; then there is the variety of looks from my other friends, from the metalhead with a bad dye job and oversized skinny jeans to the immigrant hairstylist with the long scars across her cheeks and temples from the two times she almost died.

  36. ce face un copywriter? « Jiminy's Blog responded on 05 Jul 2012 at 5:38 am #

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  37. Life [Comma] Etc responded on 05 Jul 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    I’m trying to find creative ways to express how “the same” I feel about things when you write… I think instead of being your friend, which might be a little forced since I already love you so much, I would like to be your daughter, or maybe friends with your daughter.

    I can’t imagine what it would be like to grow up with this perspective as a matter of fact — like it’s the most normal thing in the world to think society’s version of beautiful is completely stupid.

    I love my mom, but she’s definitely on the side of thinking that only crazy people shave their heads and beauty only looks “like this”. But maybe I can bring these ideas back to her and we can make them “matter of fact” for us now!

  38. Jen responded on 05 Jul 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    As someone who is 5 feet tall, curvy, with a big nose and dark brown, sometimes big hair (I sound like early commenter Emily’s character), I would have loved to read more about women and girls who weren’t cookie-cutter pretty.

    This post brings to mind some of my favorite books from middle school, Cynthia Voigt’s Tillerman cycle (the most famous of which was “Dicey’s Song”). Dicey Tillerman, the protagonist, was a tomboy of rather ordinary appearance (her ability to pass as a boy saved her on a few occasions) with a fierce temper and stubborn disposition. She was smart, resourceful, and extremely loyal to her family and the few close friends she had. Her best female friend, Mina, had been a teeny little ballerina until she hit puberty and grew much taller and curvier. She had a lot of trouble reconciling herself to her changed body until she realized that it came with increased strength and used that along with her natural grace of movement to become a star athlete. Dicey’s mother and younger sister were blonde beauties, but neither of them were without their own problems.

    I never really thought about WHY I loved those books so much. I always assumed it was because they were well-written stories with lots of sensual detail, but now I think that I loved them equally for their emphasis on character over physical appearance. The characters were all flawed but worthwhile humans, regardless of their physical appearances.

  39. Kate responded on 06 Jul 2012 at 8:00 am #

    @Life [comma] Etc
    I think a lot of my family members probably think that shaving your head means you’re crazy and “beauty” means a very specific thing. I mean, I don’t just think that, I’ve heard them talking about it. But after I shaved my head, they were like, “Hmm…that actually looks pretty good,” in this grudging, shocked way. Sometimes people aren’t creative enough to imagine how it might be good not to fit into their very slim idea of “pretty.” And sometimes I think that maybe even if they at some point disagree that I look “pretty” at all, that will have to be OK, too.
    Since I dont have a daughter yet, maybe we can be friends for now? :p
    You’re so sweet! I grinned, reading that first paragraph.

  40. Kate responded on 06 Jul 2012 at 8:02 am #

    @Jen
    Yay! Another book recommendation! Thanks for talking about it!

  41. Jo B responded on 06 Jul 2012 at 4:12 pm #

    I want to find something slightly different in female protagonists. I read a lot of YA fiction, and I’m becoming increasingly familiar (and increasingly sick of) the insecure teenage girls in these books. These girls usually describe themselves in the first few pages of the book, conveying that they are nothing special because they are flat chested, or short, or have brown hair (these are the most common that I remember, but it may be because for much of my recent teenagerhood I was flat chested, tall and envious of my short friends, and brown haired). Towards the end of the book, the girl will finally realise she is beautiful, because the boy she likes tells her so. Often, she takes some persuading from said boy.

    I don’t like the idea that these girls are always externally validated, rather than achieving self acceptance by themselves. I don’t like how being insecure is thought to make female characters more likable – I almost never see the same treatment used for male characters. I would love to see more books about brash, confident young girls, showing people that its OK to be confident, that girls don’t always have to be shy and modest and unassuming. Women are marginalised enough by society. Maybe the YA market should be less saturated with books where girls marginalise themselves.

    Examples of confident girls in YA – Isabelle Lightwood in Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments Series (not the protagonist)
    Mae Crawford in Sarah Rees Brennan’s the Demon’s Lexicon series.

  42. Lu responded on 06 Jul 2012 at 4:12 pm #

    “A woman who you can’t figure out if she’s beautiful or not, and you stop trying almost immediately, because she’s too interesting for you even to waste time on it.” – I LOVED this! I think we should all strive to be this woman. To look in the mirror and to not care if we’re beautiful or not because we’re so interesting that no one else would care either.
    My favourite article of yours so far!

  43. Jo B responded on 06 Jul 2012 at 4:25 pm #

    Oh! Also, I really liked how in The Kite Runner Amir’s wife is described: ‘She had thick black eyebrows that touched in the middle like the arched wings of a flying bird, and the gracefully hooked nose of a princess from old Persia’. Neither of these traits fit with the Western beauty ideal, and I liked that it showed some diversity in what different people find beautiful.

    I thought of that line when my Classics teacher showed us a coin which may be a likeness of the famous Cleopatra. She had a sharply hooked nose: http://www.fleur-de-coin.com/articles/cleopatra.asp This, among other features, has been cited as evidence that Cleopatra was not beautiful. But I just sat there and thought – who knows what the Ancient Romans found attractive? I would have thought, coming from a culture where the large ‘roman nose’ was probably the norm, Cleopatra may well have been beautiful by Roman standards. I did appreciate that Cleopatra’s other attractive qualities were explored by the articles featuring the coin, but I don’t see the coin as evidence that Cleopatra wasn’t considered beautiful by Julius Caesar or Mark Anthony.

  44. Mariko responded on 10 Jul 2012 at 7:37 pm #

    Kate,
    I have been a devoted reader for awhile now (I have a tab open of your past posts, I just had to read them all) but this post is one of the more prominent ones for me that hits home. I’m 19, and am obviously accustomed to seeing the typical “dream girl” or ideal heroine as a thin, beautiful, Caucasian girl. I would LOVE to read a book about somebody less than perfect, somebody more like me.

  45. Emily H. responded on 13 Jul 2012 at 12:23 am #

    for the longest time, my heroine was Clementine from Eternal Sunshine, for that exact reason. she was awesomely unique, didn’t hesitate to just, ya know, erase Joel from her memory, rocked every color hair imaginable with outgrown roots, and a totally quirky smartass. that is someone i can relate to!

  46. Eat the Damn Cake » the ugly woman detective responded on 19 Jul 2012 at 9:03 am #

    [...] was writing about something similar recently. About the kind of woman I’d like to see more in books. I didn’t think that she might be [...]

  47. 153. Love A La Carte: Deep in the Heat of Summer « Cloverdew Creative responded on 07 Aug 2012 at 9:06 am #

    [...] what more can one ask for?) .  ♥ Grace Potter & the Nocturnals. ♥ Drop Dead Diva. ♥ The woman someone should write a book about. Is it me? You? What does she look like? How does she act? She’s one special lady. ♥ [...]

  48. Amona responded on 07 Sep 2012 at 5:43 am #

    What would my heroine look like? Probably like you. Or maybe my clerical sister, with her broad strong figure and rounded eyebrows, or my offcolour humour employing mother, with her slight double chin and greying hair, or maybe even an older English professor mentor of mine, with her salt and pepper wild hair and her perpetually raised eyebrows, or my fashion-oriented friend who always shows more gum than teeth when she smiles (which she does a lot).

    Or maybe an indigo-coloured slime girl. Fantasy is funny like that.

    I’ve always felt the best part of trying to illustrate women and girls is taking a body type generated somewhat at random (flat chest, short hair, bad dye job) and making them appealing to look at. After all, characters like Marceline are well loved (even though she doesn’t have a nose and seems to not have elbows or knees, and don’t forget bluish skin). And/Or writing without emphasizing appearance at all, so the reader has a choice on whether they want to think of them as attractive or not.
    It’s always come across to me as lazy writing when a character is described as beautiful or pretty without describing any of their other features (although these stories may carry over better, as describing somebody as beautiful will always be recognized whereas blonde hair may not be considered as appealing).

  49. Eat the Damn Cake » the approval of men responded on 19 Oct 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    [...] for girls, prettiness is always there, leaping ahead of other qualities, vaulting over unquenchable curiosity and innate talent at rhyming words in the middle of the [...]

  50. “… before they crush me.” « afrikanking responded on 24 Oct 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    [...] for girls, prettiness is always there, leaping ahead of other qualities, vaulting over unquenchable curiosity and innate talent at rhyming words in the middle of the [...]

  51. Link Love (18/11/2012) « Becky's Kaleidoscope responded on 18 Nov 2012 at 8:50 am #

    [...] “I want to be braver. I want to be more selfish about my stories. And I want to write a character who is short and fat and mixed race, with fine hair and thin lips and a wide, snub nose, and eyes that cut through you. An elderly, stunning woman. A woman who you can’t figure out if she’s beautiful or not, and you stop trying almost immediately, because she’s too interesting for you even to waste time on it. Women who are full of surprises. Who look surprising. You didn’t think they would be starring. You didn’t expect them to be so fascinating. You didn’t expect people to fall madly in love with them. To want to be them.” the girl someone should write a book about – Eat the Damn Cake [...]

  52. Eat the Damn Cake » it’s fair to be disappointed by how you look responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    [...] if I don’t want them to. They are too busy fighting evil to agonize about the size of their nose. But hey, sometimes they have a moment, and they agonize, because that is life. It’s just not most of life, or even the interesting part. The interesting part is the magic, and [...]

  53. Vivian responded on 23 Jan 2013 at 9:40 am #

    I found your blog tonight, on a google search for “how can normal people wear skinny jeans”. I have far too many tabs open. I relate far too well.

    I would love to read a book with a heroine who did not look Standard Beautiful. I would notice it, briefly, but only to approve and move on. Your friend may have been right in certain genres. But I think that for most of us it’s the character herself who is interesting. Movies and television are different– you can’t help but pay constant attention to the appearance of the actor who is playing a character. But in books, I find that I don’t think so hard about the described appearance of a character when there is more interesting stuff (i.e. everything else) going on. I would, as I imagine many people would, just register a small sharp burst f happiness that this person was not as blonde and large-breasted and small-nosed and slender as she was (and we all are) supposed to be, and move on to her personality. And subsequent mentions of the “nonstandard” features would remind me, briefly, and make me smile. And then I would pay attention to the story, but I would keep a subliminal warm glow as I read, knowing that the person I was reading about was as plausible as me.

    The idea nearly makes me want to start writing again, just so I can do that.

    And now, forgive me, I have 16 more tabs open from your blog to read, ao I’ll be off.

  54. Bikinis, Advice, and Stress | responded on 24 Jan 2013 at 11:12 am #

    [...] “The Girl Someone Should Write a Book About” from Kate at Eat the Damn Cake is just lovely. Instead of writing about how we wished we looked (heroines with perfect noses, etc), write about the odd beauty that is real and around us. It’s funny that most girls have a particular body part they lust after in other women — as for me, I’ve never had a problem with my nose, so I rarely notice it on others. [...]

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