Our Reading Lives

A Woman’s Place: Finding Myself in the Star Wars Fandom

This content contains affiliate links. When you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Jaime Herndon


Jaime Herndon finished her MFA in nonfiction writing at Columbia, after leaving a life of psychosocial oncology and maternal-child health work. She is a writer, editor, and book reviewer who drinks way too much coffee. She is a new-ish mom, so the coffee comes in extra handy. Twitter: @IvyTarHeelJaime

For someone who, a year ago, didn’t know that Luke Skywalker and Han Solo were two separate people, I’ve fallen hard and fast for Star Wars. Yes, it’s true – last year, I asked my boss about Luke and Han, because somehow I’d conflated them into one person. I was born in 1980: I had a Princess Leia toothbrush and a stuffed Ewok doll. But I could not remember if I’d ever actually seen the movies; last year, I finally decided to fix that. I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about, but I figured I’d see for myself.

I’ve always liked Carrie Fisher – her biting wit, her underplayed sarcasm, and her advocacy for mental health. The more I thought about it, the more I really loved (and identified with) her portrayal of a tough, self-rescuing princess who never found herself speechless – who was smart, strong, and funny.

Shortly before the election, I watched Episode IV: A New Hope. After the election, in my dazed state of mind, I quickly devoured the other two movies in the original trilogy for an escape…and I realized the symbolism. I wasn’t the only one, obviously. Ever since then, I have watched The Force Awakens (loved it!) and Rogue One (eh). I have the prequel trilogy, but haven’t watched it yet; I’ve gotten mixed feedback about whether it’s worth it. I bought Princess Leia comics and Star Wars comics, and a sizable chunk of my wardrobe now consists of Star Wars shirts – never the Empire; always the Rebel Alliance. My year-old son and I have matching SW jammies, and his t-shirt collection rivals mine (I have no shame about that). I am currently reading the graphic novel of Star Wars: The Original Trilogy and my son is reading the Little Golden Books of Star Wars and the Epic Yarn picture books.

When Carrie Fisher died, I was heartbroken – more heartbroken than I expected, oddly. It felt devastating, and it was just one more unfair thing of 2016.

As this excuse of a presidency drags on, it has become imperative that we keep up hope – after all, as Jyn Erso said, “Rebellions are built on hope.” The women in these movies are strong, observant, resourceful warriors; not damsels in distress. They work with others, their empathy is their strength, and we are all better for watching their stories. Is it any wonder Leia has, in a sense, become a face of the resistance? When I wear a Star Wars shirt, my spirits are bolstered, I feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself, and although it sounds silly, I’m reminded why it’s so important to #resist. I have thrown myself into the fandom, and I’m always pleasantly surprised when, in answer to any questions I may have, someone is always there with information or a welcoming word. In a world that can feel increasingly lonely and disjointed, Star Wars can be a place to call home.