by Associate Librarian Debbie
In celebration of Women’s History Month I wanted to share some of my all time favorite female authors. There are so many wonderful authors but I pared it down to my top five. Keep reading to see some of the women authors that I cherish the most, along with insights into their unique works and writing styles.
What to say about the towering literary talent of Toni Morrison? An Ohio native, Nobel Prize winner for Literature, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, and many other honors and awards, she is arguably the greatest American writer of all time. She takes on difficult topics in a beautiful way. Her writing is deeply compassionate and challenging. Her books may not be easy reads, but they are always rewarding, and I feel richer for having read them. One of my very favorite books of hers is Sula. There was a wonderful documentary about her called Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am.
- Other powerful, beautiful books you might enjoy – Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.
Clarice Lispector was born in 1920 but is the master of the modern and the surreal. I love her work – I find reading her novels and stories is like finding a hidden passageway leading somewhere unknown. She is keenly aware of social issues and writes with a sharp, clear eye, often with dead-pan humor but can put an unexpected surrealist, magical realism twist that I find endlessly fascinating. Lispector was born in Ukraine but grew up in Brazil after her family moved there to escape harsh conditions and anti-Semitic pogroms. She is very well-known in Brazil, but isn’t as well-known in the United States as she should be. There is a movie adaptation of one of her well known works – The Hour of the Star. You can find a complete collection of her short stories here at the Bexley Public Library.
- If you enjoy compelling, surrealist stories try Kelly Link, Hannah Tinti and Laura Van den Berg.
Marguerite Duras has a spare, luminous, lyrical writing style that I adore. Her writing style is almost like poetry – her lines are stripped down but also full of subtle power and profound feeling. For me reading her books is like looking at a calm but deep lake; you can see the surface beauty and sense all the depth beneath. Duras was born in French Indochina (now Vietnam) in 1914, fought with the French Resistance against the Nazi occupation in WWII and began her prize winning writing career in 1943. One of my favorite books of hers is The Lover. The Bexley Public Library owns several of her books, her autobiography, and a movie of her life – Memoir of War (Le Douleur).
- If you enjoy spare, thoughtful books, try authors Jean Rhys or Colette.
Filipina-American writer Sabina Murray won the 2003 Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction for her outstanding, short story collection entitled The Caprices. The Caprices sets the stories all in various locations in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. But rather than stories of war, these are stories of people in all situations from absurd to heartbreaking. As much as I enjoyed that book, the one that first drew me in was her literary horror/psychological fiction book: A Carnivore’s Inquiry. It is a book tense with coiled menace and a compelling, yet unreliable narrator who has an increasingly disquieting obsession with cannibalism.
- If you enjoy sharp, psychological writing try Mary Gaitskill, Lynn Tillman.
Alison Bechdel writes and draws cartoons and graphic novels that are funny, touching and smart. I first discovered her work as the fantastic weekly comic Dykes to Watch Out For, which follows the ongoing adventures of a delightful cast of characters. In 2006, Bechdel wrote and drew the amazing memoir Fun Home, which chronicles her odd childhood growing up in a funeral home, her coming-out, and her relationship with her father. Fun Home was also adapted into a Tony-winning musical in 2016. The 2012 graphic novel Are You My Mother? is an excellent companion memoir about the author’s relationship with her brilliant but brittle mother. Bechdel’s work has never been made into a movie, but she wrote an influential comic called ‘The Rule,’ where a character measures the representation of women in movies by asking three questions – Does the movie have at least two women in it? Do they talk to each other? About something other than a man? This became known as “The Bechdel Test.” This is not to say that the movies that don’t pass the test are bad, but it is eye opening on how few films do pass the test.
- Other graphic novel authors you might enjoy – Marjane Satrapi, Allie Brosh, Lucy Knisley, Roz Chast and Özge Samanci. Also Kate Beaton, who isn’t a memoirist but is just hilarious.
I hope you enjoy Women’s History Month! Happy Reading!