By Emily Park
Before the pandemic hit, I could count the number of books I read for my own enjoyment (at least since I graduated from high school in 2015) on one hand.
When I was a child, I almost always had my nose in a book. I read from the time I got home from school, to the time I fell asleep. I read up in the tree in my backyard. I read nestled in my bedroom closet. I read under the covers with a flashlight. I read under my desk at school. Book after book.
As I grew up and got distracted by other things, I lost that hunger for books that I used to have. But over the last year, I have found it again, and I have met some inspiring, strong, badass babes among those pages—both real and fictional—I’m excited to tell you about.
In this first installment of Badass Literary Babes, I’ll introduce you to the first two babes I met when I started my rediscovery of literature last year.
Memoir: Educated, by Tara Westover
Tara Westover’s memoir Educated introduces a young Tara raised by religious-extremist, survivalists in the mountains of Idaho. Growing up, Tara wasn’t allowed to attend school. She wasn’t allowed to go to see a doctor when she was sick or injured (God would heal her). She worked long hours in her father’s junk yard. She suffered abuse at the hand of one of her brothers.
When Tara was a teenager she took her education into her own hands. She taught herself how to read and do mathematics — and she learned her stuff well enough that she was accepted to Brigham Young University at the age of 17. This led her to Cambridge and eventually, Harvard.
Now, as an adult, Tara’s memoir claims her story and journey to becoming educated, and learning how to open her eyes to the world around her. When she stepped foot at BYU she didn’t even know what the Holocaust was. Now, she has a PhD in history from Trinity College and is a senior research fellow at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard.
Fiction: Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
In this 2018 novel, Kya Clark is slowly abandoned by her family. Her mother goes first, then her siblings one, by, one, and eventually her father leaves too. The young girl is left to survive on her own in a small shack sitting on the edge of the marsh in her North Carolina town.
By the townspeople Kya eventually becomes known as The Marsh Girl. On her own, she teaches herself how to survive. She learns how to cook. She learns about the creatures and plants that live in the marsh. From feathers to rocks, she collects relics from the environment around her. Eventually, she meets a boy from town who teaches her to read. She writes poetry. She records facts about the marsh, and eventually publishes books about it.
Then one day a man from town turns up dead in the marsh, and Kya is immediately a suspect. Delia Owens intertwines Kya’s journey in isolation with love and loss, and tells the incredible story of the cunning survivalist, and how she is (or isn’t) related to the body that turned up in the marsh.
Check out the book here.
Emily Park is a Kansas City-based journalist, passionate about giving a voice to those who don’t always have one. From news to features to business-to-business reporting, she’s done it all. (Features are her favorite though.) In her free time you can find Emily playing games, reading, streaming, or hanging out with her furry babies, Sutton the dog and Salem the cat.