We read a lot of men. I am not trying to be “righteous” when I say this—it is just a fact.
Do not get me wrong, there is nothing bad about reading texts written by men. Heck, my favorite author is Hemingway, and I honestly do not think you can find a more “manly” author—but that is a different conversation that I will save you from (but if you really want to, maybe we can chat over mojitos on our way to Havana—sorry, I am digressing).
Right now, I am on the tail end of finishing up the American Women Writers research guide. Hopefully by the end of next week you will be able to look it up. But, while I have been doing research for this guide, I have realized something—well, maybe not realized, but was finally able to see a problem, make it palpable. And that something is this: we have a “women problem.”
If I did not already have your attention, hopefully I do now. No, women are not the problem, they are the only solution we have. Through all my research, I have found so many notable women writers (novelists, poets, playwrights) that have, at least to my exposure, been swept under the rug. Ten of the last twenty-nine US poet laureates have been women—can you name any of them? I could only name one before last week—Tracy K. Smith (I highly recommend her collection, Life on Mars). Margaret Fuller was the first full-time, female book reviewer in the US—I did not know that before today. Fanny Fern was one of the most well-known humorists of her time—lets add that to the list of thing I did not know, too.
I could go on for pages about the notable women I had no clue existed in the literary realm, but I will not. We hear so much about the Poe’s and Hemingways and Williams’ and Kings—and that is wonderful—but we hear so little about Edith Wharton or Julia Howe or Shirley Jackson or Maxine Kumin. Maybe this “problem,” as I called it to get your attention, only applies to me, and I am the one in the proverbial dark, but somehow I do not think that is true.
We need to read more women, plain and simple. Do not stop reading men, but maybe put down your fifth Stephen King book for the summer (which I was guilty of binging before the school year started), and pick up something by Tabitha King, his wife. Maybe check out one of Natasha Tretheway’s collections from Gumberg.
As I am finishing this guide, I hope it moves beyond the classroom. I know I am only scratching the surface of the surface of notable American women writers, but it is a start. I truly hope someone stumbles across this guide on their own and falls into a rabbit hole of women writers from across the globe.