Our Reading Lives

A Year Without Carrie Fisher

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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

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since Carrie Fisher died. It doesn’t feel like it at all, mainly because images of her, mostly as Princess/General Leia, have been everywhere this past year. She has been an integral symbol and inspiration of the #Resistance, even in her absence. Less than a month after her passing, we saw her all over the Women’s March, on posters and cosplay. With the recent release of The Last Jedi, her image is everywhere once again – which seems fitting; to begin and end an otherwise dumpster fire of a year with the inimitable force of nature that was Fisher.

As a child, I knew her as Princess Leia. As a teen, I knew her from movies like When Harry Met Sally. As an adult, I revisited her as General Leia Organa, an accomplished actress outside of the Star Wars franchise, a script doctor, a mental health advocate, and last but certainly not least, as a writer. Her first novel, Postcards From the Edge, was published in 1987 and later made into a movie, and she continued to write for 30 years, with her last book being the memoir The Princess Diarist.

Although I have vague memories of Princess Leia as a child, I didn’t really appreciate Fisher until recently. She was outspoken, brash, and to be blunt, didn’t give a shit what you thought of her. She gave no fucks, and it was glorious. She battled weight issues and the accompanying criticism that comes with that, and was open about her struggles with drug use and sobriety. She was also very open about her diagnosis of bipolar disorder and treatment and their effects on her life, helping to break down the stigma and create public conversations about the illness.

Any outspoken woman knows the dangers of being such – you’re called a bitch, a feminazi, and worse. You’re thought to be “too much.” You write something true and unpleasant about your life, and your writing is called “confessional” or “messy.” Fisher was all of this, and proud of it. She was outspoken on social media – who could forget her tweet about hurting “all 3 of her feelings” when people criticized her for daring to age?

But aside from all of that, Carrie Fisher has been a symbol to me this past year of hope and tenacity. I admit, mostly Carrie-as-Leia, although I’ve read all of Fisher’s nonfiction and some of her fiction – and damn, she can write. (Fellow Rioters Katie and Annika have written great posts if you want to read more). But it’s her role as Leia that has struck me the most this past year, and that I return to, again and again. A princess who lost everything, who refused to play the damsel in distress, who stood up for her people in the face of tyranny. She saw destruction and hatred, and yet still believed in love. As time went on, she allowed herself to love and be happy, and eventually have a family – but all the while, maintaining the fierce spirit of rebellion and resistance in the face of evil. Smart (Leia Organa earned her PhD at 19), funny, brave – all admirable traits.

This past year, we have seen abominable displays of bigotry and the condoning of hatred by the highest political office in this country. We have seen Nazis march the streets, scientists be curtailed by what they can and cannot say, and free press be threatened daily. We have seen misogyny explode on a national scale, and women taking back their own power. We have seen Islamophobia and anti-LGBTQIA sentiments be broadcast in toilet tweets from 45, and we have seen the responses of love and support outweigh those of hate. Leia Organa reminds me to find hope. She reminds me there are more of us than them, that good will prevail, even when it feels otherwise.

She reminds me that others’ underestimation of me will ultimately be their downfall.

She inspires me to always have a plan b, because somebody’s got to save our skins.

She gives me encouragement that one day, I, too, might find my scruffy-looking nerfherder.

She is a reminder that rebellions work, that resistance is not futile, and hope is crucial to its survival.

RIP Carrie Fisher: Drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra.