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Storybook heroines bust stereotypes


Girls holding court, standing up against the British empire or defying diktat by picking up a book to read—female protagonists in children’s books today are fierce and powerful, ready to take on the world rather than wait to be rescued by Prince Charming.

Underlining the need to create space for powerful female characters, author Anitha Murthy said that these act as a powerful influence for a young mind.

Venita Coelho went a step further to add, “A child who hears stories where she is powerful and central to the story, steps out into the world feeling she has a role to play. So it’s really important we have strong female characters. The characters that they admire in stories are the characters that they will try to become, and we need stronger women in the world. There are so many feminist battles to be won and our children need to fight them,” she said. Murthy and Coelho were part of a panel discussion on the need for strong female characters in children’s books at the Times LitFest on Wednesday.

Author of ‘Strong as Fire, Fierce as Flame’ Supriya Kelkar added that treating women as powerful and capable led to respect and eventually an understanding of consent among girls and boys.

But how does one write a female character without knocking down the male character, asked Sutapa Basu who was anchoring the session. Kelkar said that she tried to portray male characters as those who were not afraid to show emotion and support for women in their lives.

Coelho also pointed out that imaginations continue to be colonised by a Western literature, and it was important to introduce them to Indian stories and ideas that they can identify with.

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