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"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."
— Ellen Biasi
Westfield, New Jersey

"Langston Hughes's Simple, whose stories taught me wonderful life lessons while making me laugh loud, shoulder-shaking, tears-running, unladylike laughs."
— Freda Washington

"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."
— Kim Kasch
Portland, Oregon

"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."
— Joanne Schwartz
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?"
— Yvonne Murphy
Newmarket, Ontario

"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."
— Silvana Zambrano
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!"
— Charlene Ranton
Jena, Louisiana

"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."
— Kristen Costa
Somerset, Massachusetts

"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."
— Katherine Ruud
Great Falls, Montana
"Mrs. Miniver. She taught me grace, gentility, and wonder. Her appreciation of domestic life helped her create an island of calm in a world gearing up for war—and helped me find tranquillity during my husband's unemployment and my son's terminal illness."
— Loris Simcik
Bloomfield, Connecticut

"Mary Poppins. She could snap my house into shape!"
— Angela Brooks
Bend, Oregon

"Atticus Finch. I was quite young when I first read To Kill A Mockingbird, so my first impression was that he was the perfect father—Jem and Scout were lucky to have him. Upon subsequent readings, I came to admire Atticus for his kindness, even temper, and sense of honor and decency. Those values were most evident when he sat outside the jailhouse all night, guarding Tom Robinson from the angry mob. I would like to shake Atticus's hand, and hug him, and thank him for being an example of who we all should strive to be—someone who walks the walk and believes in compassion for our fellow man... and the mockingbird."
— Linda Belmont
Oak Ridge, NJ

"Huckleberry Finn and Scout Finch—I even named two of my children after them! Their barefoot zest for life and adventure lives on in my babies."
— Becky Herbet
Santa Barbara, CA

"Scarlett O'Hara. When she was in the worst place of her life, she saw a way out and ended up on top again, never letting anything bring her down."
— Ena Flaherty
Dorchester, MA

"Lillian Leyb, from Amy Bloom's novel Away. The name doesn't inspire visions of a heroic adventure, but Lillian is the real deal. A creative and redemptive purpose—searching for her daughter—drives her to Siberia. As heroic trials go, Bloom creates some truly original ones for Lillian: assisting an amateur tattoo artist in a women's detention center, nurturing three children abandoned in the frozen Yukon, and helping a prostitute get revenge on her pimp. I'd love to meet Lillian not because she's a survivor but because she's authentic—she knows the failings of humanity and is still full of love. Who doesn't want to meet a hero?"
— Mary Jeanne Hawes
Newport Beach, CA

"Etna Van Tassel from All He Ever Wanted by Anita Shreve. Despite the rigid social mores of the early 20th century, she carved out an oasis for herself—and that inspired me to begin my own rebirth. Facing menopause, an empty nest, and the end of my fifth decade, I changed my job, worked on my family relationships, took golf lessons, and learned Zumba. I would love to thank her for inspiring the journey that brought me to where I am today."
— Jennifer Sweeney
Lake Elsinore, CA

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