How do you define someone as being strong?
Is it their muscles? Or their courage and determination to succeed?
For women, this question becomes even harder to answer, as we aren’t generally determined by our levels of strength.
One of Yuri Herrera’s themes presented within her fictional novel, Signs Preceding the End of the World, translated by Lisa Dillman, discusses this idea of what makes a woman strong. Protagonist Makina is an independent woman, who’s not at all afraid to speak the truth. Throughout her journey to deliver a message from her mother to her brother—who immigrated to The United States—Makina undergoes a seemingly endless amount of unprecedented challenges. In every barrier that she faces, she takes it head-on with a surprising amount of persistence.
In only the second chapter, “The Water Crossing,” Makina crosses some pretty standard gender norms when she snaps a man’s finger back after he had “dropped his left hand onto his own left leg, languidly letting it sag onto the seat and brush her thigh” (31). Most women would either move to another seat, or try their best to ignore it, as our society pre-disposes us to be kind, polite, and gentle. Makina, however, is just the opposite of our culture’s pre-determined traits and characteristics for women.
Now, of course, I will say that it is the twenty-first century and our culture is a bit more accepting of the stronger and assertive-type of woman. However, it is still so deeply ingrained in our brains as women to act in the more submissive manner. This is why it’s so important to see strong female idols, such as Makina, in both fictional,
and real-life scenarios. This way, women can see that they too, can be strong, independent, and outspoken—that they too can cross and break those cultural boundaries.
Check out: Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World, and experience the rarity of such a badass female lead in one fictional but fully alluring novel.