Time to grab your reading list.
After the recent comments made by renown journalist Gay Talese at Boston University where he shrugged and replied that no women writers have inspired him in his literary work, I began to muse on the female figures who have brightened my writing career throughout the years.
A Twitter campaign, online publications such as The Cut, and various news outlets have covered Talese’s poor answer and provided generous lists to help our old pal out when it comes to enlightening and expanding his reading list. Not surprising however is that Talese isn’t the only one sticking to gender biased male-authored writing. For most publishing houses, women only make up 30% of the publication list. For example, The New York Review of Books had 919 authors and critics featured but only 26% were female.
Let’s progress towards closing the gender gap by looking at six inspirational female writers, from today and yesterday, who have shaken up the literary world.
1. Chinelo Okparanta
The Nigerian-American novelist and short story writer has catapulted into the literary scene with her 2015 novel, Under the Udala Trees which follows the tale of a same-sex couple during the 1967 Biafran War. Inspired by the style of Nigerian folktales, Okparanta writes about LGBTQ rights in a country where modern-day law has criminalized same-sex marriage by punishment of up to 14 years in prison.
2. Evangeline Walton
The American fantasy fiction writer is known for her four novels that retold Britain’s historical prose literature, Welsh Mabinogion, which originated in the 12th and 12th century from oral traditions. Originally, sold poorly in the 1930s, her novels were re-discovered in the 1970s and published in several languages. Begin reading with the Island of the Mighty and go from there.
3. Clarice Lispector
The Brazilian writer, whose oeuvre includes novels, short stories, and journalism, is considered the “most important Jewish writer since Franz Kafka” Her most well-known book is the 1964 novel, The Passion According to G.H., which is an experimental, mystical, and shocking work that focuses on one character for the entirety of the text. The 1960 collection of short stories, “Family Ties” is another important read where the text transforms the banality of life into gripping epiphanies.
4. Mira Jacob
The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing took the Indian-American author ten years to complete in full, which exemplifies her dedication and truth to the story. Partly semi-autobiographical, the novel takes place in Jacob’s home state, New Mexico, and follows the mystery of the family patriarch. Additionally, Jacob’s writing has been featured in Vogue where she covered the story of her parents arranged marriage, which ultimately resulted in their falling in love.
5. Zadie Smith
The contemporary English novelist, essayist, and short story writer, has published four novels which have all received enormous praise. Her style, which is categorized as new sincerity and post modernism, utilizes long sentences, experimental structuralism, and informal language to portray her characters and settings. The 2000 best selling and award-winning novel, White Teeth is a complex story about two wartime friends. The book focuses on immigration, culture, race, and assimilation into British society — start there when reading Smith.
6. Edna St. Vincent Millay
The American feminist, poet, and playwright was the third woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923. Her finest work is considered Renascence and her collections of poems from “A Few Figs From Thistles, Second April” and “The Ballad of Harp-Weaver” are widely respected. Her progressive lifestyle and fiery performative readings added to her adoration and interest from the public during her lifetime.
Which female journalists, essayists, poets, fiction or non-fiction writers have inspired you? Use the hashtag #womengaytaleseshouldread and comment below!