Girls Rule: 3 Writers Prove that Women Authors Can—and Should—be Taken Seriously
A recent online rant suggests that male authors, (“literary darlings”), are not only reviewed more, but taken twice as seriously as their gender counterpart when it comes to domestic story lines.
Are women authors capable of writing beyond the pastel-pink genericism of that hackneyed moniker, chick lit?
You bet. And celebrating our history this month, here are three women who write with amazing grace—and staying power.
The Submission by Amy Waldman
In 2003, a “blind” submission of two designs for a memorial commemorating 9/11 has a state-appointed jury at bitter odds with one another. Widow Claire Burrell knows her choice: it’s the detailed rendering of a living garden. Her sunny husband, Cal, she achingly realizes, would have loved it.
But when “The Garden” wins and its architect is revealed, the jury reels. Virginia-born and educated at Yale, Mohammed Kahn is a Muslim.
Secrecy is urged upon the jurors—at least until Khan can be notified and hopefully dissuaded from accepting the win. But when his identity is leaked to the press, the incendiary reaction of a nation, still deep in mourning, is reflected in a compelling cast of characters, all beset by personal demons.
In The Submission, Amy Waldman turns the tables on her readers and makes us all jurors of sorts:
What, for example, should we make of a tabloid reporter who is without compunction or morality when a rumor can be milled into a story?
A slacker who finds that the death of his brother gives him sudden purpose?
Or the presiding juror, a Jew who cannot reconcile the fact that Mohammed Kahn has what his own two sons sorely lack?
And what are our thoughts when the widow of an illegal immigrant faces sudden deportation?
The Submission is a brilliantly invented novel of a nation in the wake of unfathomable sorrow.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
In the fall of 1951, a warm, vivacious African-American mother of five succumbed to a rare cervical cancer—she was only thirty-one. Known affectionately as Hennie, Henrietta Lacks could dance like nobody’s business and her heart was as big as her home when it came to feeding and caring for her many relatives, but she was no-nonsense with her kids and carried a secret pain for the impaired child she was once forced to give away.
A violent storm was all that marked her passing. There was no obituary. Not even a headstone. Hennie’s shoes and clothes were whisked away—like she never existed—and the little ones, with no memory of their mother, were parceled out to bitter, cunning relatives.
Only their mother’s bible and a lock of her hair remained tangible proof that Hennie ever lived until decades later when the four Lacks siblings learned that their mother—astoundingly—lived on through the very unique cells that originally generated her cancer.
Without their mother’s knowledge, or family consent, Johns Hopkins Hospital (one of a handful at the time willing to treat black Americans) studied Hennie’s tumor and recognized something distinguishing about it.
For the very first time, human cells proved not only that they could be grown outside the human body, but also that Hennie’s “workhorse” cells were spontaneously replicable! Scientists were ecstatic. Here at last was a cell culture vital to the research of disease, chromosomal study and much more. Scientists gave them a name: “HeLa,” short for Henrietta Lacks.
Immortal and vastly profitable, (at $167.00 a vial), HeLa cells would come to mean big business for all those involved – except the marginalized and medically uninsured Lacks family.
To write this gripping nonfiction, author Rebecca Skloot invested ten years in the lives of Hennie’s children to record vividly the myriad emotions they grappled with after learning the truth. None of those emotions was more exquisite and tender than that joyful moment in which Deborah and Zakariyya Lacks “meet” their mother for the very first time.
The Sound of A Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey
In a rustic studio in early spring, one-time gardener and memoirist Elizabeth Tova Bailey lies bedridden, her mind racing at top-speed. Frightened, baffled and frustrated, she struggles to convalesce from a mysteriously impairing infection. Then a friend visits, bearing a clump of wild violets, an unusual and entrancing gift. Slowly, Bailey’s confining existence seems to unfurl as she finds remarkable solace and renewed creativity in the bedside kinship of a humble, “acorn-sized” field snail.
Thoreau-like at times, and somewhat similar to Annie Dillard’s haunting Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a teeny-tiny gem: tender, witty, and affirming; a minute study into how a mollusk can teach one to bounce back—from anything.
Additional posts by Aimee Zuccarini
- Mom Lite, 13 Jun 2013 in Book Reviews
- Three Books that Are Spring-Fresh and Fun!, 06 Apr 2013 in Book Reviews
- Challenge Yourself (And Your Book Discussion Group) With a Big Book this Winter, 30 Jan 2013 in Book Reviews
- Inner Peace on Earth, 05 Dec 2012 in Book Reviews
- Steamy Summer Fiction, 13 Aug 2012 in Book Reviews
- Buzzworthy Books, 08 Jun 2012 in Book Reviews
- Steller Reads for the New Year, 01 Feb 2012 in Book Reviews
- Feast on These, 02 Dec 2011 in Book Reviews
- Books You (and the Men in Our Lives) Will Enjoy, 02 Nov 2011 in Book Reviews