Now if I sat down to list all of these books, the list would reach the floor. I have read quite a bit, and Ryan will attest to our constantly expanding library. We spend almost every weekend perusing the thrift store, and unlike most people, I walk away with a bag of books (It is just far too difficult for me to find clothes at thrift stores that fit my long, lanky body). These books sit in boxes and on shelves and provide me with an always open library. Many of them are good, some of them are great, and a few have entered into the realm of my most treasured possessions.
But I want to catalog these works in a more meaningful way than just listing them under the title, "Favorite Books". So every week, I will attempt to create a thematic list of recommended reading. I hope that you enjoy the categories I create and the books that fall under them. If you live close by and would like to borrow a copy of one of the books I mention, please let me know. I love lending books almost as much I enjoy borrowing them.
As March is about to close on us, I must begin my first list by honoring Women's History Month. I am most often drawn to literature written by women, and so I have quite the list of favorite female authors and their works. So in order to specify, this first list will focus on novels that attempt to "Write women back into history" (which happens to be the overarching theme of National Women's month 2010).
Writing Women Back Into History
Cane River by Lalita Tademy
This novel explores the personal ancestry of the author, Lalita Tademy.
Utilizing an amazing amount of research, Lalita brings to life four remarkable women in her family that lived and breathed the discrimination and injustice that African-Americans have faced over the past two hundred years. These women face innumerable hardships, but retain a commitment to preserve their heritage. The novel is well researched and written in eloquent and precise prose. It is an excellent choice and will motivate you to explore your own family's past.
Oh pioneers. As a child, I was obsessed with Laura Ingells from Little House on the Prairie. Yes, I read every book numerous times and found the television show far too addicting for my 1/2 hour limit of television each day. I would lie in bed at night, imaging embarking on the Oregon Trail with my dog and bonnet in hand. In high school, I discovered Willa Cather and my love for pioneering was reignited. My Antonia tells the story of several immigrant families who move out to Nebraska to start a new life. Although the book is narrated by Jim, it chronicles his friendship with the bohemian farm girl, Antonia. The novel paints a stark picture of what life truly was like for many girls and women in the West. Willa Cather has a gift with language and her descriptions of the rolling prairies and the stark landscape upon which so many families began new lives is worth immense admiration.
Ah, the sexual double standard...how could I leave this theme out? Hardy's most famous novel chronicles the painful coming of age of a poor country girl. Issues of class and sexuality permeate the novel, and Hardy's detailed description of the Wessex countryside makes me want to live in Europe and herd goats. I love Victorian literature, but I understand that many of you would rather eat sawdust than sit down with Henry James or Thomas Hardy. But this is a novel I fell in love with at the tender age of sixteen. As I read about Tess, I found myself grateful to be living in a time and a place where my gender afforded me more opportunity than many women faced throughout history.
Throughout history, women have been healers. Although in the 19th and 20th centuries, the medical practice became largely controlled by men, history proves that women have long held positions of authority within the healing realms. This novel, set in a small New Mexico town in the 1940's, follows the life of a young boy who has a curandera (a woman healer) come and live with his family. The young boy is forced to wrestle between the opposing forces of his parents. He is torn between the masculine influence of violence and possession and the feminine influence of his mother's family and religion. But with Ultima, the curandera, he discovers oneness with nature. Gender become neutral and reconciliation between masculinity and femininity occurs. This is a beautiful book about a child growing up in a conflicting family environment (not unfamiliar to me in the least) and the reconciliation that one woman brings into his life.