We love many fictional characters, but when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, it takes a special person to earn a place at our families’ tables. These characters would get our plus-ones. Now, who remembers if we pass to the left or right?
Barbie Chang from Barbie Chang
By Victoria Chang
For the eponymous main character in Chang’s poetry collection, being a child is about grieving and caring for an ailing mother; for me, childhood was particularly the latter. My mother gratefully calls me a hero for doing something as simple as writing her resume or taking care of her when she’s sick. My conversation with Barbie Chang would be about not only the mother-child relationship, but also distance and sacrifice, “how quickly the air // around [us fills] in the space afterwards” when our mothers leave—Barbie Chang’s mother in death, mine as I matriculate into adulthood—and the sacrifices mothers make. I want to have dinner with Barbie Chang, and I also cannot wait to have dinner with my mother.
Helen Loomis from Dandelion Wine
By Ray Bradbury
I consider this summery, small-town novel to be Bradbury’s masterpiece, its series of short stories offering some of the most beloved, idyllic scenes in my reading memory, from a paean to mowing the grass to the hopeful creation of a “Happiness Machine.” Some tales crackle with the discovery of being alive, while others curl into the bittersweetness of memory and old age. In one story, we meet 95-year-old Helen Loomis, who is like a Miss Rumphius who speaks graciously, openly and ever kindly about her long and eventful life, the loneliness and freedom of her travels, her wildness and never marrying. Her story is one of love—and everyone at my family dinner would fall totally and helplessly in love with her.
—Cat, Deputy Editor
Ralph S. Mouse from The Mouse and the Motorcycle
By Beverly Cleary
My family likes animals. When my dad was in college, he had a rooster named Jack who lived in his apartment. Later, he and my mom had a kinkajou named Pooh Bear who slept in the cabinets. I’ve picked up the exotic animal baton by adopting two chinchillas (Rupert and Terrence Howard). So if I had to bring a guest of honor to dinner, my family would certainly appreciate if it were a mouse. There are, of course, many fine mice in literature, but Ralph S. Mouse is the obvious standout choice. He’s cute, he has great stories about escaping danger (essential for an ideal dinner guest), and best of all—at least in my Suzuki-driving family—he can do motorcycle tricks.
—Christy, Associate Editor
Gansey from The Raven Boys
By Maggie Stiefvater
Under the right circumstances, I’d love to meet any of Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle protagonists, but Richard Campbell Gansey III is the only one who’d be at ease in any social situation, including dinner with my family. For example: “Because of his money and his good family name, because of his handsome smile and his easy laugh, because he liked people and . . . they liked him back, Gansey could have had any and all of the friends that he wanted.” He’d bring flowers for my mother. He’d call my father “sir.” He’d compliment the meal and offer to help with the dishes. And after dinner, driving me home in his beat-up Camaro, he’d ask, a gleam in his eye, “How much do you know about dead Welsh kings?”
—Stephanie, Associate Editor
Circe from Circe
By Madeline Miller
There is probably no one with a more extensive or fascinating array of stories to tell at the Thanksgiving table than Circe. In Miller’s gorgeous reimagining of the legendary sorceress, Circe encounters Medea, Odysseus, Hermes, Athena and many more iconic figures. She is witness to some of the most well-known stories in Greek mythology, and through Miller’s clear-eyed, rigorously researched perspective, figures of fable become complicated, contradictory beings of flesh and blood (or ichor) rather than cold marble. Also, it’s important to note that many characters are either deeply dismissive of or outright hostile to poor, exiled Circe. As such, she quite frankly deserves a nice family meal where she can sit back and be the highly deserved center of love and attention.
—Savanna, Assistant Editor