If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives... But up close a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. - Ursula K. LeGuin

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Women Writers Identified: Part I

Wednesday I posted 10 pictures of women writers. I've always been a voracious reader and for a significant number of years I only read women writers. Now I read more of a mixture, but women writers do it for me, particularly these writers.

1. Ursula K. Le Guin. I first read Ms. Le Guin when I was about 10 years old and had fallen in love with science fiction. At the time she had The Earthsea Trilogy (I believe there are now 5 books total) but I soon moved on to her adult novels. One of the things I love about sci fi is its ability to examine issues in our current world by creating fantasy worlds. As a feminist writer and a daughter of an anthropologist, issues of gender and culture are central to her work. Legend has it she wrote The Left Hand of Darkness (in which a genderless world exists) in order to write the sentence "The King was pregnant." In addition to sci fi she writes poetry, essays, children's literature, and short stories. She also wrote one of my favorite books on writing, Steering the Craft. At 79 years of age she has just released another novel, Lavinia, that I am anxiously awaiting.

2. Octavia Butler. Another amazing sci fi writer, I discovered Ms. Butler in my mid-twenties (thanks to my sister, Meg). Her novels include explorations of the meaning of race, sexuality and community. After reading Kindred, in which a young modern-day African American woman is transported back in time to the early 19th century in the South, I was hooked and quickly devoured everything she had written until that point and would wait--not so patiently--for each new novel to appear. At one point there was a particularly long gap and then Fledgling was published. This was her first foray into the undead (I've been a longtime fan of vampire literature) and it was superb (even Boy read it and loved it). I was sure this was going to be the first of a series but, alas, on February 24, 2006, she slipped on the ice outside her home, hitting her head on the concrete, and died. She was only 58.

3. Maxine Hong Kingston. My introduction to this author was her most famous work, The Woman Warrior. I believe the first time I read it was in college. It is a fascinating memoir of growing up as a Chinese American girl but unlike a traditional memoir it weaves her mothers' stories from China throughout the book. This allows her to exploring the intersection of gender, race, acculturation and mother-daughter relationships. Her most recent book, The Fifth Book of Peace, defies classification. She originally set out to write a novel (titled The Fourth Book of Peace) but as she was working on it she was called away to her father's deathbed. Driving home from the funeral she sees her house burning down along with her only copy of the novel. The book is, in part, a re-creation of the novel but is also a memoir and an exploration of loss, war, and her devotion to peace.

4. Toni Morrison. Really what can I say except I believe this woman to be America's greatest writer. Again I started reading her in my early twenties and await every new book. Most people know her for Beloved, which is harsh but amazing and I love it. Jazz, however, is probably my favorite (if I was forced to pick) as it is written exactly how a piece of jazz is played and who can really do that? Boy and I were lucky enough to hear her speak about a year ago and she is brilliant - like scary smart. She too has a new novel coming out, Mercy, which is currently on pre-order only and will not be available until November.

5. bell hooks. It is impossible to do bell hooks justice in a paragraph. She has described herself as a "Black woman intellectual, revolutionary activist." She is an important voice for this country. Her work examines how the intersection of race, gender and class creates and perpetuates a system of domination and oppression. She was one of the first (and still one of the few) to actually discuss the issue of class in this country and I highly recommend Where We Stand: Class Matters. But I am also enamored of her books on love. Few people can really write about love as an intellectual process--like motherhood, we usually get all sentimental with the topic--but All About Love: New Visions, does love justice. Drawing from Erich Fromm (The Art of Loving) and M. Scott Peck (The Road Less Traveled), she provides a concrete and useful definition of love. For me, this definition helped explain what I hadn't received for the first half of my life (from my family and ex-husband) and allowed me to see what I deserve to get (and subsequently got and still get from b and Boy).

Ok so this was exhausting and I'm only halfway through. You'll have to stay tuned for the rest of the list.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I also really like Nikki Giovanni and I really liked her a lot more after all the stuff she said and did after the VA Tech massacre... all that she said and how quickly she was there. I think some of the big things that everyone said ("Today we are all Hokies.") were penned by her, but I'm not totally sure...