March is Women’s History Month as well as National Reading Month. We thought it would be a perfect excuse to share some of our favorite women authors!
Jane Austen— (1775-1817)
English author known for her books Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. Her books make a social commentary on class, gender, family relations, and of course romance!
Recommendation: I’m going to be honest… I’ve never read Jane Austen! But Kim recommends Sense and Sensibility and I trust her tastes.
Daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft (author of The Vindication of the Rights of Woman) is the author of Frankenstein, which is one of the earliest examples of science fiction. During the summer of 1816, she spent the summer in Switzerland where she wrote with her husband Percy Shelly, Lord Byron, Jane Clairmont, and John Polidori.
Recommendation: Definitely Frankenstein!
a poet from Amherst, Massachusetts—just a few towns away from our home in Easthampton! Despite the fact that Dickinson lived a fairly reclusive life, her poetry beautifully explores universal themes of nature, identity, and mortality.
Recommendation: Cute little Pocket Edition
Louisa May Alcott
has been called a feminist writer and activist, well known for her children’s book Little Women and many short stories.
Recommendation: Little Women has been an inspirational story for many young readers about the transition from childhood to adulthood.
considered to be one of the first important Feminist authors. Her novel The Awakening (this is one of my favorite books!) was highly criticized when it was first published for being too morbid and according to the Chicago Times Herald, a piece of “sex-fiction”. The novel is about a female protagonist who is awakened to The story was rediscovered in the 1960’s and became highly praised by the feminist community.
Recommendation: The Awakening
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935)—
Author, feminist, and sociologist, known for her semi-autobiographical short story “The Yellow Wallpaper”, which was inspired by her experience with ‘rest cure treatment’. Her dystopian novel Herland depicts an all women utopia which challenges and deconstructs the socially constructed roles of gender.
Recommendation: “The Yellow Wallpaper”
“She was so evidently the victim of the civilization which had produced her that the links of her bracelet seemed like manacles chaining her to her fate.” Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth
American novelist (The House of Mirth, The Age of Innocence) that illustrated the psychological effects of social class and privilege.
Recommendation: The House of Mirth. The 2000 film adaptation starred the wonderful Gillian Anderson as protagonist Lily Bart.
Known for her stream-of-consciousness writing style (Mrs. Dalloway, The Lighthouse) her novels focus on the psychological and social struggles of women and the consequences of war.
Recommendation: Mrs. Dalloway is always a good start to Virginia Woolf. It is a multiple perspective, post-war narrative that takes place over the course of 24 hours. Oh and I would follow it up by reading The Hours by Michael Cunningham or watching the movie staring Meryl Streep!
Ursula K. Le Guin— (1929–)
Le Guin may not be the most well-known author on this list, but she is one of my personal favorites. Le Guin has written many novels and children’s books that take place in imaginary alternative worlds.
Recommendation: The Left Hand of Darkness explores the dynamics of gender and language, and challenges readers to rethink common social conventions. If you are a science fiction fan, I would highly recommend this book! For the nerds out there… there are so many parallels between this story and Game of Thrones.
Maya Angelou— (1928–)
Renowned poet, novelist, educator and civil rights activist. Maya Angelou is incredibly influential; she was a part of the Black Arts Movement, friends with James Baldwin, she worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, was an anti-apartheid activist, a film producer, and a professor at Wake Forest University.
Recommendation: I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings, her first and most popular autobiography. Life Doesn’t Frighten Me is an amazing children’s picture book with interesting illustrations by Jean-Michel Basquait.
Poet, author, and another Massachusetts local. Plath is known for being a part of the Confessional Movement; her experience with depression and psychiatric hospitalization was a powerful influence on her artistic work.
Novelist, poet, and activist. Walker was also a part of the Black Arts Movement; much of her work focuses on the struggles of black women in a white patriarchal society.
Recommendation: The Color Purple, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
Morrison is another one of my personal favorites. Her writing style is unique and captivating. She stresses the importance of memory, story-telling, and the representation of history. She is an award-winning novelist, professor, and speaker.
Recommendation: Beloved, dedicated to the 60-million and more who died as a result of the Atlantic Slave Trade. The novel explores how a culture handles trauma and the importance of collective experiences.
I was first introduced to Lahiri in one of my English courses, and we were only required to read one of her short stories and I ended up reading her entire collection. Her stories are autobiographical and focus on the effect of cultural assimilation and identity.
Recommendation: Interpreter of Maladies
J.K. Rowling— (1965–)
I had to include her! I mean my entire childhood basically revolved around Harry Potter, how could I not? I could talk about Rowling forever, but I wanted to bring up how she was asked to publish the book under the title “J.K. Rowling” instead of “Joanne Rowling” so that it would target a larger audience. Apparently, boys are less likely to read books that are written by women. I hope I’m not the only one who thinks that even if it’s true, it’s ridiculously unfair? Do you think the book would have been as successful if she used her actual name?