"Where's my book?" In the two years since Brad Meltzer released Heroes For My Son, that's what the New York Times best-selling author has heard over and over from his daughter. Now, just a month before Mother's Day, Brad reaches out to his daughter and mothers everywhere with Heroes For My Daughter.
In his new book, the father of three profiles 56 people who he believes are worthy of the hero title. The collection of biographies and photographs spans Amelia Earhart and Lucille Ball to Mahatma Gandhi and Judy Blume. He's also introducing a line of inspirational clothing pieces featuring caricatures of the heroes. I recently spoke with the author about the new book; here's what he had to say.LilSugar: Are there any crossovers between the heroes you picked for your son and the ones you have selected for your daughter?
Brad Meltzer: I did 50 brand-new heroes for my daughter. But there were six heroes that I felt were worth repeating from Heroes For My Son — a sort of hall of fame that I felt needed to be there for my daughter: Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart, Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Lucille Ball. Plus, I again included my mom. C'mon. It's my mom!
LS: What were the criteria you used to make your selections? What did it take for them to "make the cut"?
BM: To pick a hero, it's like the Supreme Court definition of pornography: you know it when you see it. But in the book, there's one thing every hero has in common. They all had to do this: help someone. Some people help thousands of people directly, like Marie Curie or Susan B. Anthony. Others help us by inspiring us, like Amelia Earhart. But you do have to help someone.
It’s the dream that links every single hero I picked for her. As I now often tell my daughter Lila, no matter what stage of life you're in, when you want something — no matter how impossible it seems — you need to fight for it. When you believe in something, fight for it. And when you see injustice, fight harder than you've ever fought before.
Keep reading for more about Brad's picks, including some little-known facts about the heroes.
LS: You include some interesting and not widely known facts about some of the heroes. Who did you find most surprising?
BM: I forgot how awesome Susan B. Anthony is. Abigail Adams, too. These women were tough. True fighters. Brawlers even, in Susan B. Anthony's case. When she got arrested for being a woman and trying to vote, she told the judge she'd never pay the fine. And she never did. And then, to screw the judge, she sent the court transcripts to every media outlet she could find, refusing to be silenced. Add her to Lucille Ball, Rosa Parks, Randy Pausch, and all the rest — those are heroes for my daughter.
LS: Have you shown the book to your daughter yet? Which heroes have resonated with her so far?
BM: She loves Lucille Ball. Loves her. After reading about her, she made me get the DVDs, so she's now the only girl in America watching black-and-white TV. She also loves seeing the last hero in there: my wife, her mom. But to me, the most important page in my daughter’s book is the last one — because it's blank. It says, "Your Hero's Photo Here," and, "Your Hero's Story Here." I promise, if you take a picture of your mom or grandparent or teacher, and you paste it in the book and write one sentence on what that person means to you, it will be the most beautiful page in Heroes For My Daughter. It will also be the best present we can give our children: the reminder that it is ordinary people who change the world.
LS: You've had a rough few years, losing some people very close to you, including one of the heroes you included in the book. What did you want your daughter to know about your grandmother?
BM: My grandmother would've been 94 years old today — on the day the book comes out. And years ago, when my grandfather died, everyone thought my grandmother wouldn’t be able to go on. But she did. And when she went blind, they thought she wouldn't be able to go on. But she did. And when she went deaf — barely hearing with her hearing aids — they thought she wouldn't be able to go on. But she did. I'd go visit her on Sundays and say, "How you doing, Na?" And she'd say, "I can't complain." She was wrong. She was blind and deaf and living without her beloved husband and daughter, who both were already dead. She could’ve complained all day long. But to her, as long as she had her family, she had everything.
LS: Tell us about Ordinary People Change the World. What was the thought process behind the line and what do you hope it will achieve?
BM: Over the past year, I was looking for clothes for my kids, and all I could find were princesses and sports teams. And I just kept thinking: I have better heroes for them than that. So I started designing inspiration they could wear. In the end, we brought together the estates of Amelia Earhart and Lucille Ball, Muhammad Ali, plus Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and others, and launched what I keep saying is one of the most inspiring clothing lines in history: Ordinary People Change the World. It is my core belief — I don't care how much money you make or what your job title is — I believe in the power of regular people. To me, the best part is, when you buy a shirt, you get to change the world, because you get to vote on which charity we donate 10 percent of the profits.