Thinking about women authors

A few years back, out of a matter of curiosity, I  went through my data on books-read since May 2007 and determined that nearly 80% of my reading came from male authors. This is not something that bothers me, since men predominate the genres and subjects I tend to read,  but when there was a flurry of chatter this week about International Women’s Day, I began thinking about women authors I’ve read and re-visited – and I found that they were mostly authors I’d read as a kid! 

Top row: Beverly Cleary, Gertrude Chandler Warner, K.A. Applegate, S.E. Hinton
Bottom Row: Ann M. Martin, S.D. Perry, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, and Anita Amirrezvani

Beverly Cleary and Gertrude Chandler Warner were my first ‘favorite authors’, as I devoured the Henry Huggins/Beezus books as well as the Boxcar Children series. In middle school,   Melinda Metz’s  Roswell High,   K.A. Applegate’s Animorphs, and S.E. Hinton’s  Oklahoma novels  were constantly in my pockets, in my backpack, or in my hand.  Those merged into high school, where I also found Ann M. Martin’s California Diaries series, the characters and stories of which are still close to my heart and mind, and discovered the remarkable urban fantasy of Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. (Her In the Forests of the Night is much battered from many readings over the years!). S.D. Perry became a longrunning favorite in the early 2000s because of her Deep Space Nine titles that initiated the Star Trek Relaunch.

In adulthood, though……there’s just not many pickings! J.K. Rowling, of course, whose Harry Potter books I first found in college and have subsequently read and re-read. Anita Amirrezvani’s books are like nothing I’ve read, but she’s not particularly active. Mary Roach (pop science on taboo topics), Alison Weir (medieval English history/biography), Rose George (um…shipping, sanitation, and blood so far) and Susan Strasser (garbage, consumerism) are three of the few female nonfiction authors I find consistently interesting, though Juliet Schor (consumerism, work) is one whose works I want to explore more. Over time I think Liza Picard’s social histories will make her a favorite.

Although reading more female authors is not a ‘goal’ of mine (I read according to my interests, not to check off a yay-me-I-do-diversity scorecard), it’s interesting to realize that I read females far more as a kid than now. I suppose it’s a natural effect of growing up: as we hit the teens and our bodies and interests begin differentiating more, the ways we relate to authors and the stories they tell changes. I don’t know that I would have found California Diaries, for instance, if I hadn’t entered the series with its sole male character, Ducky. If Maggie or Amalia had been the first books I saw, for instance, I probably wouldn’t have given the series much thought, having little-to-no interest in a preppie girl being moody because her dad ignores her, or in another girl’s dating woes. However, having encountered them in Ducky, and then Sunny, I developed an attachment to the characters, and was then more interested in reading about their lives.

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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3 Responses to Thinking about women authors

  1. Marian says:

    Feel like I’ve asked you this before, but have you read much Flannery O’Connor? She’s one who overlaps some of your interests (Southern literature, Catholicism).

    It’s really fun to consider what books were appealing in childhood. I was a big fan of the Boxcar Children, too! Even the ghostwritten ones. 😆 It seems to me a lot of children’s books are written by female author, which might explain some of the trend you describe. At some point, my reading began to lean more masculine – I was/am fond of monster stories, adventures, and detective fiction (probably inherited from my mom, who grew up with a lot of boys).

    My favorite female author to this day is still Charlotte Bronte. I’ve read some stellar novels by other women, but just haven’t found one yet who resonates as much. O’Connor is a genius as far as I’m concerned, but she has to be taken in small doses and doesn’t feel like a write I can really get “close” to (if that makes sense).

    • I read a few of her choice pieces in community college, but that was (adjusts dentures, hikes pants up, yells at children on lawn) 20 years ago. I remember her characters were often grotesque. I’m going to be revisiting her this year for CCII/Readin’ Dixie.

      I definitely understand what you mean about not being able to get close to an author. There are some who I’ve read enough of that I “know” them as a person, by virtue of the amount of time I’ve spent in their head (or is it the reverse?), whose pieces I can recognize even without a masthead (Esolen & Kauffman) , and then some who remain inscrutable.

  2. Cyberkitten says:

    I’m with you where 80%+ of my authors are male again because of the kind of books I read. Probably my most regular examples of female authors are: Agatha Christie, Alison Weir & Phillipa Gregory in fiction and Alice Roberts & Anne Applegate in non-fiction. I shall muse on this a bit & might post on it @ some point.

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