"Cora from Six of One
, by Rita Mae Brown. When I read it, I was only 20 years old, insecure and confused. As Cora unfolded on the page, I saw the woman I was to become. In my mind, she's a mighty oak that carries a message: It is what it is, and it is all good."
Westfield, New Jersey
, whose stories taught me wonderful life lessons while making me laugh loud, shoulder-shaking, tears-running, unladylike laughs."
"Hester Prynne, heroine of The Scarlet Letter
. I'd love to ask her how she dealt with the emotional impact of her lover's guilt, her husband's anger and revenge, and her own shame and solitude."
"Precious Ramotswe, the unusually strong, kind, and open-minded owner of the
No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
, in the series by Alexander McCall Smith. I'd love to travel to Botswana and learn more about her culture."
Charleston, South Carolina
"Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice
. She was sassy, assertive, and rich in complexity. If I met Lizzy, I'd ask her if she had so much wisdom at a young age, or if
it took time to learn. And was Mr. Darcy still dashing and sweet after years of marriage?"
"Holden Caulfield. When I first read The Catcher in the Rye
, I was shy and kept my feelings to myself, so I wanted to be more like Holden—up-front about how I felt. If I met him, I would tell him that he helped me find my voice."
Elmsford, New York
"Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games
series. I read the books last summer with my 19-year-old daughter, then, as a teacher and librarian, shared the stories with a class of teenage students. We could all learn a few things from Katniss—she's fearless and determined but still empathetic and selfless. What a gal!"
"Jo March from Little Women
. Her fiery, independent personality helped her defy the social conventions of her time and pursue her passion for writing. I reread the novel when I need to feel invigorated."
"Jean Valjean, from my favorite book, Les Misérables
. Instead of being concerned with what others thought, he just tried to be the most honest man he could be. I have him to thank for the moments in my life when I am able to be myself."
Great Falls, Montana