Being locked in the bunker of an apocalypse cult leader is not exactly the material I would jump on for my comedy show, but that’s why Tina Fey is famous and I’m not. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt takes a horrible scenario and fashions an eternally optimistic heroine from it. The worst thing that could happen to her already has, and she refuses to stay locked up by letting the experience define her (one of the other “Mole Women” uses the awfulness of their situation to get everything she wants from people, which, YOU DO YOU, I’ve never been in that situation and I would never, ever judge what you have to do to cope with it because I literally cannot imagine the awfulness).
I say all of this because I want to make it ABUNDANTLY CLEAR that I’m not making light of the very real experiences of too many women in the headlines, and I’m aware of the myriad problematic elements of this show. HOWEVER, this is a book site, and I’m a book person, and I wanted to write about the show so here’s my angle.
In addition to everything else Kimmy missed out on—completing her education, normal teenage years, a million things we all take for granted—she also would’ve missed out on tons of great books. We know she’s a reader; she puts to brilliant use her knowledge of The Baby-Sitters Club Mystery #12, Dawn and the Surfer Ghost, to bust jerky teenager Xanthippe Lannister Vorhees (Lannister, you guys; bless you, Tina) in a series of lies about her dating life.
I’ve got some book recommendations for Kimmy, based on her love for BSC, which makes me love her all the more.
Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
Because it’s Harry Potter, and Kimmy would’ve missed out on the phenomenon it became. Also because of everything Harry overcomes; I think she could relate. And while I’m at it, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say she’s probably a Hufflepuff. And I love Hufflepuffs. Xanthippe: Ravenclaw trying to pass for Slytherin (been there). Titus: Headmaster.
Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke Allen, and Shannon Watters
The Agency series by Y. S. Lee
I just started the first book in this YA series on Oyster, and it is ringing so many of my bells! A young woman (!) spy (!) of color (!) in the Victorian era (!). Seriously, what’s not to love, especially for a fan of BSC mysteries?
I could probably throw in Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series here, too. Seems like all the ass-kicking would be therapeutic.
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
I’m recommending this for the same reason I’m recommending Harry Potter, and I’m recommending it instead of The Hunger Games because Kimmy’s been through enough and that series is so dang grim. She’ll find it on her own anyway; you can’t really avoid it. I’m also stopping at the first book because I’ve realized I like it more on its own. Twilight can either be super meaningful (if there are ways in which you identify with Bella) or it can be total fluff, which Kimmy probably needs. Sure, Katniss is a great Strong Female Character, but Bella is a great everygirl to relive (or live) your teen angst through, and to fantasize about your life turning out pretty much exactly how you wanted, no matter how weird the path is.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay & Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Literally every human should read these books, probably more than once. When I start a (bunker-free) religion, they (along with The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison) will be the holy texts.
Do you have book recommendations for Kimmy?
Expand your literary horizons with New Books!, a weekly newsletter spotlighting 3-5 exciting new releases, hand-picked by our very own Liberty Hardy. Sign up now!