What About the Heroine? ~ Donna Baier Stein

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Literature is rife with narratives of the hero’s journey. But what about the heroine?

Raising wise young women today is more important than ever–and a new book, Six Weeks to Yehidah, reminds me how rare and wonderful it is to see a real heroine’s journey described. Melissa Studdard’s new bestselling novel for middle-schoolers (and adults–I read it in one sitting with great pleasure) follows ten-year-old Annalise through a series of challenges, from the ordinary world through the call to adventure to the return home with newfound wisdom.

According to Joseph Campbell, all heroic journeys draw on myth, ritual and psychological development. The ordinary world presents a dilemma. Something shakes up the status quo, and there’s a call to change. Annalise’s adventure begins with a flood. She’s transported to another world above the clouds where she meets her mentor, Bob, who appears as a golden glow and identifies himself as “a manifestation of” The Big Mentor, Me Anyou, “like we all are.”

The Buddha’s journey was a heroic one as he left his normal life to seek awakening and find the answer to why misery exists in the world. In fact, one of the adult pleasures of Studdard’s book is the frequent referencing to other archetypal journeys to drive home the point. The character who first appears as Annalise’s nemesis, Hagski, spouts long lists of prizes from other heroic tales: the golden fleece, the Holy Grail, Excalibur.

Annalise faces trials just like Hercules did. She has to help a discordant orchestra get in tune, and does it by introducing its members to the power of silence. She has to tame her monkey mind—in this case, a literal monkey who jumps about wildly. And she has to get back home to help her mother who “has been changed by grief” with her daughter’s absence.

Like any good hero, the heroine too must ultimately return home bearing a gift, in this case a recognition of our shared humanity and enlightenment. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Donna Baier Stein’s novel FORTUNE was a semi-finalist in the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. She loves writing stories, poems (http://www.donnabaierstein.com) and fundraising appeals for worthy causes (http://www.writesontarget.com). And she publishes Tiferet, an interfaith magazine on literature and spirituality (http://www.tiferetjournal.com).

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anonymous Sep 26, 2011 4:36pm

Well said!

anonymous Sep 25, 2011 10:00am

I was so happy to learn that some of Campbell's archives were in Peapack, NJ, when I lived there, Jeffrey – such a surprise that was!

anonymous Sep 23, 2011 1:19pm

Thanks for the compelling review. It's on my gift list for my daughters!

anonymous Sep 23, 2011 12:24pm

Thank you Donna for the amazing review and Melissa for this graceful, inspiring and sparkling novel. This WILL change so many lives for the better. More than ever, our young people need these powerful examples. Beautiful.

anonymous Sep 23, 2011 11:57am

Every girl deserves a golden fleece.

anonymous Sep 23, 2011 8:54am

Martha, you referenced another hero's journey, one taken by Tom Cruise 🙂 I liked your post.
Julie and Sophie – the book IS well worth reading as a grownup too.
And Randy thank you for commenting and for sharing… appreciate it!

anonymous Sep 23, 2011 5:49am

wonderful message within the post Donna, thanks for sharing your words of wisdom! Sharing!

anonymous Sep 22, 2011 10:46pm

"Like any good hero, the heroine too must ultimately return home bearing a gift, in this case a recognition of our shared humanity and enlightenment." : That's where you really made me want to read the book! Thanks Donna!

anonymous Sep 22, 2011 8:46pm

Beautiful post, Donna. The point is well taken. I love the idea of girls in middle school having a novel like this to read – one that affirms all the places we can go and still land in a place of goodness. I would like to read it myself!

anonymous Sep 22, 2011 8:39pm

You had me with the title of your post!

anonymous Sep 22, 2011 8:03pm

Mary, yes – heroines too often seem to simper and swoon… and yet behind that passive behavior, something internal must mirror the hero's journey… I agree we should all be heros.

anonymous Sep 22, 2011 6:41pm

This book sounds terrific! Thanks, Donna, for giving it the kind of review that stresses the need for girls to recognize the wisdom within themselves
Betsy

anonymous Sep 22, 2011 6:34pm

Great post!
I always hate the way heros have such an exciting time, but heroines just seem to simper and swoon. Hey women – let's all be heros and forget about heroines 🙂

anonymous Sep 22, 2011 6:28pm

Excellent perspective… I’ve followed the hero’s and heroine’s journey for some time. It’s almost as if the hero’s doesn’t translate for me anymore… the heroine is who I am. The book looks great… Thanks!

anonymous Sep 22, 2011 6:10pm

A nice summary of the hero's journey, and how story can reflect changes in our hearts and world. Thanks for this helpful review!

anonymous Sep 22, 2011 5:53pm

Thanks, Donna, for writing this review and pointing me to this site. I’m intrigued about this book, especially the author’s weaving together of a contemporary girl with our heritage of archetypal journeys to know oneself more clearly.

anonymous Sep 22, 2011 4:27pm

I love this review and am glad to know about Six Weeks to Yehidah. Our daughters and young women need to see their own courageous journeys reflected in art and literature, and there is no shortage of stories to tell.

anonymous Sep 22, 2011 4:08pm

I love the article and I love the journey. I'm always looking for "tales in truth" to share with my daughter. As a high school teacher, I search for creative ways to provoke meaningful dialog and thought in shifting certain paradigms. Thank you.

anonymous Sep 22, 2011 4:00pm

As the mom to a middle schooler daughter, this is exactly the kind of book I'd want for her – where the heroine faces her trials with singular courage yet recognizes that none of us truly travels alone.

anonymous Sep 22, 2011 3:57pm

Thanks so much Donna for your thoughtful review of a great book!

Brava to Melissa Studdard for this spiritual fantasy that takes us into the heart and mind of young girl and teaches us something about our own.

anonymous Sep 22, 2011 3:47pm

Donna – thanks for this review. I keep meaning to get a copy of the book but haven't yet. I probably should get over and order it now. It's nice to know that even adults enjoy the book. @mmangen