March is Women’s History Month, and what better way to celebrate than to read books with awesome female characters?! For those of you participating in Book Riot’s 2018 Read Harder challenge, this could be the perfect time to check off task #23: a book with a female protagonist over the age of 60. I highlight here a few books featuring female characters “of a certain age,” some who have made history, others who have been there to bear witness to it.
Now, the term protagonist is most frequently used to refer to the central character of a fictional text, but can be used more broadly to refer to prominent figures in real contexts. I just had to make use of this latter definition to include “Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail.” At age 67, Emma Gatewood told her family that she was going for a walk; surely they assumed she’d be taking a leisurely stroll around the block. Nope! Gatewood’s walk was the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, and she became the first woman to complete this journey solo. Becoming something of a hiking celebrity, she later was the first person to walk the trail twice, and then three times. Talk about determination!
Speaking of walks, “Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk” focuses on the titular character, an 85-year old former advertiser for Macy’s. As she walks through New York City to a friend’s home on New Year’s Eve in 1984, Lillian recalls the events of the century as well as those of her own life, from moving to the city and her employment to her marriage and subsequent divorce. While Lillian’s story is a work of fiction, it is loosely inspired by the life of Margaret Fishback, the highest paid advertising copywriter in the 1930s, known for her work at R.H. Macy’s.
Because those aged 60+ participate in activities other than walking, and mostly because I wanted to sneak a comic into this post, “Bingo Love” may be a good choice if you’re looking for a quick read. Hazel and Mari become fast friends and fall in love after meeting in a bingo hall in 1963, but the star-crossed lovers are torn apart after their families discover their relationship. Mari is sent away and the women lose contact until they reunite and rekindle their love after a chance meeting at another bingo hall 60 years later. Short but sweet, it is refreshing to read a romance with older protagonists at the center, while also providing LGBTQ representation in such stories. By reading “Bingo Love,” you can also knock out task #8: A comic written or drawn by a person of color and task #10: A romance by or about a person of color, which we highlighted last month.
For this challenge, I’ll be reading “Britt-Marie Was Here” by best-selling Swedish author Fredrik Backman. The title character who originated in Backman’s previous novel “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” is 63, recently separated from her husband and is somewhat curmudgeonly, hyper-organized, and set in her ways until she takes on a new role as caretaker of a small-town community center. I’ve enjoyed several of Backman’s prior works, so this one is a no-brainer!
For more options check out the library’s list and as always, happy reading!