Being a character in a banned book is no joke—you’re dealing with enough sex, drugs, and violence to find yourself kicked off of library shelves around the world. We hear about the male rebels, the Holden Caulfields and the Jay Gatsbys of the literary world. But what about their equally badass female counterparts? We’re tired of seeing our favorite banned heroines left out of the spotlight. So, to celebrate Banned Book Week, we’re showcasing nine of the most badass ladies in all of banned literature. These women have the spunk, courage, and strength to keep up with any male character, patriarchy be damned.
Jordan Baker, The Great Gatsby
The ladies of The Great Gatsby get a bad reputation, mostly because both Daisy and Myrtle are a little bit crazy. In fact, their antics tend to make readers forget about the most badass woman in the entire novel. In the 2013 film adaptation of the novel, Nick describes Jordan as “the most terrifying woman I had ever seen,” and her literary counterpart is no less terrifying and fantastic. A golfer with a scandalous background and no time for Nick’s nonsense, it’s a shame to see her thrown over at the end of the novel. She could have whipped our incredibly neurotic narrator into shape. Can we have more Jordan and less Daisy, please?
Sethe’s unbelievable strength in the face of evil makes her deserving of some major recognition. Her actions against the young Beloved don’t stem from a place of violence, but rather one of desperation and, ultimately, love. How many would have the courage to do what she did to keep her daughter from a life of slavery?
Lady Brett Ashley, The Sun Also Rises
Has anyone who had to read The Sun Also Rises in high school not felt the need to bow down to queen bitch Lady Brett Ashley? With her short hair and free-spirited sexuality, it’s no wonder Jake can’t help loving and losing this thoroughly modern woman. Plus, she says one of the most badass lines in all of Hemingway: “You know, it makes one feel rather good deciding not to be a bitch.” Doesn’t it though, Brett?
Dewey Dell, As I Lay Dying
It’s not easy being seventeen and pregnant, especially when you’re a main character in a Faulkner novel. But Dewey Dell doesn’t just sit around and accept her bad luck, instead attempting to take ownership of her body and her destiny. The fact that she’s beaten down by male interference only shows how tough she is to be fighting against a patriarchy much stronger than she is.
Edna Pontellier, The Awakening
Edna has always been a pretty polarizing character, but whether you love or hate her, you can’t deny her a place on a list of female badasses. Edna not only embraces her sexuality, but spurns the female stereotypes held by her community, moving into her own home and abandoning a maternal role that never fit her. She shows readers that there is no “normal” woman, no mold one has to fit in to claim that title.
Offred, The Handmaid’s Tale
We all agree that The Handmaid’s Tale is a terrifying book, right? So any lady that manages to live through that dystopia has to be one tough cookie. Offred is forced to face the probable murder of her husband and the loss of her daughter, and still finds the strength to fight against an oppressive regime that attempts to take away the rights of all women. Offred, you go, girl.
Sam, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Sam, the girl with the past. What might be most refreshing about her is her honesty and her strength. She doesn’t deny the things she’s done, but tries to grow from them. Her acceptance of her flaws make her an incredibly vulnerable, and therefore entirely relatable, character. Plus, how relatable was this quote, when she called Charlie out on his crap? “It’s just that I don’t want to be somebody’s crush. If somebody likes me, I want them to like the real me, not what they think I am. And I don’t want them to carry it around inside. I want them to show me, so I can feel it too.” Preach, girl.
Lyra, The Golden Compass
She may be the youngest on this list, but she probably has more spunk than the rest of these ladies combined. She has a blatant disregard for authority, she risks her life to save her friends, and she becomes partners with a bloodthirsty polar bear. EVEN AN ARMOURED BEAR LISTENS TO HER. What could be more badass than all that?
Did your favorite badass make the cut?