That’s the writing prompt I give to my class and the results are startling. I love reading their opinions on who has the most awesome superpower, and whether Batman or Superman would win a battle. I love reading their stories because like most adults I love super heroes, too. But I love them for reasons I don’t really want to admit. Watching Spiderman indiscriminately take out an arch- villain who has thumbed his nose at our criminal justice system gives me great satisfaction.
And that’s a problem, because I know in my heart, a superhero is really nothing more than a vigilante in a fancy suit. How does the blissful destruction of a bad guy help young people navigate the gray areas of conflict resolution? They don’t. Aren’t there powerful, awe-inspiring characters who are real and human and complex enough for us cheer on?
There are role models for us in YA literature; young people who overcome incredible hardship without wearing a cape. They are real. They are flawed, and the more I study them the more I realize it’s not their superpower that attracts me, it’s their flaw and how they overcome it to save their world.
Parents. First, thank you for reading my posts, and commenting on some really tough issues like suicide and sexual violence. I want to ask you another favor. Could you write down three real-life “Superheroes” who you’d like to share with your kids. I will post your responses and we will share on what those people had to overcome to find success.
Young people. I thank you in advance because your homework is going to be a little harder than what your parents got this week. I want you to find a fictional story on any topic with a character who has overcome great hardship. He or she does not need to “save the world” to be a hero. She needs only to have survived an injustice and stood up to her adversaries in some way.
I look forward to sharing with you soon.
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