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September 22, 2011

What About the Heroine? ~ Donna Baier Stein

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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