My Top Four Literary Heroes

By Tiffany Coelho

Ernest Hemingway. Mark Twain. F. Scott Fitzgerald. Charles Dickens. When you google ‘Famous Authors,’ these are the first few names that appear. While these authors are indeed famous and have penned some of the important canonical works in the last few centuries, they also have another characteristic in common: their gender. I did not search ‘Famous Male Authors’ but that is what I was given. In fact, in the top 10 of this google search, only two were women.

Male authors are often celebrated more than female authors due to the historical oppression of women and overall societal lack of opportunities for women. Today, it is important to celebrate female writers for their accomplishments and creativity because they are the some of the heroes that women look up at to find their own strength.

So who are my favorite literary heroes? No surprise, they’re all female. Yes, they are all famous female authors, so I took the idea from google not to title it ‘My Female Literary Heroes’ but ‘My Literary Heroes’ because they are authors, just like any other author.

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  1. Harper Lee

In high school English classes, reading classics was a given and I slogged through all of them without really enjoying many of the books. But then we were assigned To Kill A Mockingbird. Harper Lee’s iconic novel struck me unlike any other classic I had ever read before. Lee’s take on race relations and inequalities in the South as witnessed by a child created some of the best story telling I have ever read to this day.

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  1. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

My first exposure to contemporary author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was not even through her writing, but through her TED talk titled “We should all be feminists.” I watched it at the beginning of my college career in my first ever Women’s Studies class and her words impacted so much that I think about her speech still today. Her idea of modern feminism is both enlightening to current feminists and important for other people to finally understand what feminism is all about. Her novels We Should All Be Feminists and Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions expand on her feminist ideas further.

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  1. Gertrude Stein

While Gertrude Stein has always been on my radar as a revolutionary lesbian author, only recently have I discovered how truly important she is to literary history. Authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway would visit Gertrude Stein in her home in Paris and she would advise them in their writing. Her short story “Miss Furr and Miss Skeene” plays with sexuality and form that I have never seen before. She, herself a modernist, helped to shape Modernism through her own work and helping other famous literary heroes.

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  1. Zora Neale Hurston

As one of the most famous Florida writers, Zora Neale Hurston has inspired since I first learned about her in high school. Her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God was revolutionary for my love of literature because the emotional response I had was extraordinary (read: I cried). Her portrayal of the female African American experience is both beautiful and sad but, ultimately, she changed my idea of what truly powerful literature looks and feels like.