Five reasons why Tamora Pierce is as kickass as her female heroes

12th Dec 2013

Five reasons why Tamora Pierce is as kickass as her female heroes
Tamora Pierce is renowned for celebrating diversity of gender, sexuality, and ethnicity in her fantasy novels. We take a look at some of the of the reasons why you should be wishing her Happy Birthday...

1)  Her advocation of female heroes

“I know that there are plenty of guys who like my books. My female heroes are surrounded by guys. It’s not that I have anything against boys. I just see a need for girl heroes.”

Tamora Pierce has been writing fantasy since the 1980s when she stormed onto the scene with her Song of the Lioness Quartet which had Alanna – an aspiring knight – at the very centre of its action.  In the years since her female heroes have included mages (Circle of Magic), a spymaster (Daughter of the Lioness) a half-god (The Immortals), a law-enforcer (Provost’s Dog) and another knight (Protector of the Small).

Each of her characters are individually flawed and developed; they challenge the perceptions of women that those around them hold (and within the pseudo-medieval Tortall universe, that’s usually far from pleasant); and they always do what they consider to be right, no matter how hard this may be.

And far from leaving this within the confines of her writing, in the early noughties she founded the Sheroes forum with Meg Cabot.  She highlights that they “were talking about how hard it was for us to find female heroes when we were growing up, real women in the real world. We basically wanted to cover anything that would get girls and young women to talk about female heroes and real-life.”

2)  Her 2013 Margaret A Edwards Award Acceptance Speech


Because she breaks down why women in fantasy are so kickass.

3)  Her reading lists

A long-time advocator of diversity, she has a whole section of her website dedicated to recommendations, including LGBTQ YA Books & Links; the So Not White Medieval Europe Booklist; and “Pumpkin? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Pumpkin!”: Teens & Young Women in Young Adult Fantasy Literature.

We’re impressed by the sheer scope of books that she recommends.

4)  Daja and Ohka

And whilst we’re on the subject of diversity, we think that two of her characters deserve a special mention.

Daja is first introduced in the Circle of Magic quartet, when she’s rejected by her community following a tragic accident.  She has to rediscover her identity as the series develops and it’s interesting to note that the fact that she’s a Woman of Colour has little bearing on the way she’s perceived by the other characters – they’re far more interested in her magical abilities.

She always knew that Daja was gay. It was just a matter of finding her the time and opportunity, and the right woman, to help her sort it out. In The Will of the Empress, she also develops a relationship with Rizuka fa Dalach, a beautiful seamstress.  When asked about this, Pierce said that she “always knew that Daja was gay. It was just a matter of finding her the time and opportunity, and the right woman, to help her sort it out.”

In Bloodhound Okha Soyan (or the Amber Orchid) is a transgender character.  Born male but, as Pierce points out, “as far as Okha is concerned, the Trickster [one of the gods in the Tortallan universe] messed her up when she was born, and she’s female.”

5)  Her outspokenness

Tamora Pierce is unapologetically vocal about what she likes to read (“When Graceling and Hunger Games came out in the same year, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It made me so very happy”) but she’s just as vocal about what she sees as problematic – within fantasy, Young Adult fiction, and in general.

We agree with her when she says “There still aren’t enough strong females in fiction, especially for teens, we’re still coming up short. So I still like to write them, and I like to read them.”