Dr. Leslie Donovan is a professor at the University of New Mexico, teaching in the university's Honors College. She teaches a few interdisciplinary classes such as the introductory level seminar, "Monsters and Marvels through the Ages," which is planned to start this fall. She serves as faculty coordinator for UNM's Regents Scholars and has received honors such as the university's Presidential Teaching Fellowship. Her work involves topics including medieval studies, science fiction, disability studies, women's studies and more.
Many of Donovan's writings focus on author J.R.R. Tolkien's universe and can be found in the Honors College with the other faculty publications. She took some time to share her top five favorite inspirational fictional females with the Daily Lobo.
"Choosing only five was nearly impossible as there are so many other fictional female characters who have made me who I am today and, perhaps more important, who I would like to be someday and who I see clearly in my own students," Donovan said.
Éowyn from "The Lord of the Rings" books by J. R. R. Tolkien
"Tolkien's shield-maiden not only saves her comrades, Gondor and friends, with her impressive fighting skills, but she is also an innovative thinker with a strong moral compass. Despite being oppressed by powerful males around her and cultural stereotypes with which she was raised, Éowyn finds ways to survive and be of use in unexpected ways. In the end, she accepts the challenge to evolve in keeping with her heart and use her talents in new ways. While she may not be a main character in Tolkien's texts, Éowyn inspired me deeply when I was in high school by teaching me about the multiple powers of women."
Hermione Granger from the "Harry Potter" series by J.K. Rowling
"Although I came to love Hermione later in my life than Éowyn, she has many of the same qualities. Hermione is highly skilled as well as highly intelligent. She comes up with the new ideas, new plans, the ways out of the problems. Yet, she always speaks truth from her heart and protects those who cannot protect themselves. From S.P.E.W. (Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare) to her best friends, Hermione advocates with all her heart for others and she is willing to put herself in harm's way without question. This girl with her nose in the book is someone I identify with strongly."
Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot)
"Ummm, what can this amazon not do? For me, the fictional women I admire have more to them than just amazing physical prowess, and Gadot captured that beautifully. Even though I grew up knowing Lynda Carter's version, the 21st century version speaks to me because of her seemingly effortless ability to merge compassion and justice, strength and kindness, beauty and stamina. If I had had models like this Wonder Woman when I was growing up, I have no doubt that the western world would be much different today."
Chrisjen Avasarala from "The Expanse" series by James S.A. Corey
"Written under the pen name of James S.A. Corey, by New Mexico writers Daniel Abraham (a UNM alumni, former Daily Lobo staffer, and former UNM Honors student), and Ty Franck (whose wife was one of my own UNM Honors' students and now an alumnus), "The Expanse" books are among my current top speculative fiction favorites. This series has many women characters I admire greatly — Naomi Nagata and Bobbie Draper vied in my mind mightily for number four on my list. But in the end, Avasarala is the one character I would want watching my back. She cares passionately about the truth, but her generosity is often overlooked. Yet, her unswerving, uncompromising nature keeps her rooted and makes her formidable as an ally or enemy."
Captain Kathryn Janeway from the "Star Trek: Voyager" TV series
"Although I am a big fan of many of the fictional women in the "Star Trek" franchise — Uhuru, Deanna Troi, Kira Nerys and most recently Michael Burnham (yes, Michael is female in the newest Trek, "Discovery") — Janeway's writers made her character not only commanding, confident and in control, but also her humanity is unparalleled. I particularly admire her character's ability to both handle necessary day-to-day business, while simultaneously looking ahead to prepare for the long-term good of her people."
Katie Monette is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KatieMonette9.