Book Review: Heroes For My Daughter

Heroes For My Daughter:  Ordinary People Who Achieved The Extraordinary, by Brad Meltzer

Admittedly, this book was not as bad as the companion volume “Heroes For My Son” also written by the same author.  There are definitely some serious issues about the heroes chosen, and what is viewed as achieving the extraordinary, but this book is at least a better source of heroes than the one chosen for the son because most of these people are more inspirational and their role isn’t an offense to womanhood in the same way that the author’s choices of heroes for his son was an offense to manhood.  This may seem like damning with faint praise, but by and large the author’s choice of heroes is either obvious, in which case there is little credit for recognizing someone as heroic, or inappropriate, in which case the author’s qualifications for heroism are usually suitability for a contemporary Progressive audience and celebrity status, neither of which are all that praiseworthy attributes for me.  This book is an example of the ways that politics makes heroism more contentious, as being an activist for leftist causes is something I would associate with villainy and not heroism, which tends to set me at odds to the author far more than would be the case with an author with a better worldview.

This book gives very brief discussions of why a list of people, mostly but not entirely women, are heroic.  Some of these figures were ordinary people whose heroism was not particularly complicated, like Anne Frank, one of the better choices here, as well as Mallory Holtman and Liz Wallace, who helped someone around the bases after she blew out her leg after a home run.  Some of them were people just doing their jobs, like Marie Curie as a researcher, Joan Ganz Cooney as a show runner for Sesame Street, and Jane Goodall.  Some of them are anonymous figures in history like the Tank Man of Tiananmen Square, and some are even imaginary, like Lisa Simpson.  Quite a few of them are celebrities, from Audrey Hepburn to Carol Burnette to Lucille Ball to Dolly Parton to the Three Stooges.  And there are the usual choices that appear due to the author’s desire to cheer on various politically correct activist figures like Christoipher Reeve, Gandhi, and the Dalai Lama.  There are even some nepotistic choices like three generations of women in the author’s family, chosen at the end.  But the author at least provides his reasons and allows the reader to determine if those reasons are good enough.

The better choice of heroes makes this a better book than the other volume was, because it does include choices like Winston Churchill and Abigail Adams and Abraham Lincoln as well as figures whose heroism consists in doing a job well in a way that influenced many other people.  If there are too many actresses and singers and athletes here, there are also patriotic choices like the ordinary heroes of Flight 93 and even a few writers and one chef, Julia Child, who was apparently also a spy.  More butter, please.  If this is not a great book, and it is not, it is at least a book that is defensible.  Most of the choices at least provide an argument that is plausible.  The author did not choose Ike Turner (but instead Tina Turner), for a book directed at women, which would have been the equivalent choice to some of those made on his book about heroes for his son.  And that restraint, and the fact that the author has a better idea of what should appeal to girls than he does of what should appeal to boys, makes this book at least okay.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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