What Makes a Hero? Self, Society, and Rising to the Occasion

What Makes a Hero? Self, Society and Rising to the Occasion

Created by Maria Sachiko Cecire, Director of Experimental Humanities and Assistant Professor of Literature at Bard College, and Jennifer Mann, Teen Librarian at the Ypsilanti District Library.

About the theme

Legends, literature, media, and history are full of stories about heroes who rise to the occasion in moments of need, taking on great risk for the good of others. What makes a person able to perform heroic acts? Is this something that certain people are just born with, or does it grow out of our circumstances and upbringing? Related to this is the essential question of how much control we actually have over our own self-making. Major thinkers have debated these questions for centuries, and individuals continue to grapple with them as they face down the challenges — sometimes seemingly small, other times impossibly large — of everyday life. 

The books in this series each take a different view of what it means to be a hero, considering how the combination of unique social circumstances, compassion for others, and inner resources can make it possible for young people to perform acts that they may not have imagined themselves capable of achieving. Continue reading about this theme.

Reading List

  • Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze
  • Maus II: A Survivor’s Tale: And Here My Troubles Began by Art Spiegelman
  • Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
  • Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac
  • What Can(t) Wait by Ashley Hope Pérez
  • Buck: A Memoir by MK Asante

Programming Materials

Promotional Materials