The Invention of Wings

Books I enjoyed:

Growing up on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, my history knowledge of the American (pre)Civil War era was fairly limited. Most of my information probably came from watching North and South episodes on television. Yeah…I know. I had and still have quite some catching up to do.

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The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is set in the first half of the nineteenth century, and tells the story of the Grimké sisters, but mostly that of Sarah Grimké. Born in the South and despite being raised in a slave-holding family, Sarah grows up abhorring slavery and believing things should be different. As the book describes her life and her slow but steady progress towards not just standing up for herself, but also for abolition and women’s rights in general, I can’t help but admire her for her enlightenment, her courage, and her will to do what is right, despite the restrictions the era—and society—placed upon her.

I had never heard of the Grimké sisters, so I was surprised to find out these ladies really existed, and yet are so little heard of. Therefore, I am grateful to Sue Monk Kidd, for writing this book. If nothing else, these women deserve some attention. In fact, Sarah and Angelina Grimké were one of the first American female advocates for abolition and women’s rights. They were both famous as well as infamous for their viewpoints.

Sue Monk Kidd has, for the most part, tried to be truthful to the life and voice of Sarah Grimké, through examining letters, diaries and so forth. The part of the book that is fiction is the voice of Handful, a slave girl that is given to Sarah on her eleventh birthday. Switching back and forth between the two girls, and later, women, the contrasts are stark; one is in a position of privilege, the other of captivity, submitted to the cruelty and whims of her oppressors. In my opinion, even though the story of Sarah is fascinating, it is the voice of Handful that carries the book to a whole new level.

Both girls endure confinement, albeit in different ways; Handful is owned—her lack of freedom is absolute—for Sarah there are the restrictions of her gender. As Handful points out to Sarah: “My body might be a slave, but my mind is not. For you it’s the other way around.” However, once Sarah manages to break free, she is able to continue along this journey, chipping away at the barriers holding her back, whereas for Handful, the road to any sort of freedom is permanently closed off. Yet, despite her circumstances, Handful’s spirit remains unbroken.

This book reminded me of a quote attributed to Goethe: ‘There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings’. How true.

After reading the book I was left with a variety of emotions, but mostly, hope. Even in our darkest times in which we display our most terrible behavior, there are still people willing to do the right thing—people who have a vision of how things could be, if only…

That’s something to hold onto.

Author Interview – Amy Vansant

Get ready for Amy Vansant, who I got to know after reading Pineapple Lies, the first book in The Pineapple Port Series. In Pineapple Lies, Charlotte, a young woman living in a retirement community in Florida, discovers a—eek!— body hidden in her back yard. But…Who is the deceased? And who in the community is the killer? A fun read all over, despite the dead body. The dialogues are strong, fast and often hilarious. I could easily picture the ‘older’ people in the retirement community, especially Mariska and Darla, each with their own quirks. If you are looking for an entertaining book this summer that will put a smile on your face, this is it.

Welcome Amy. Can you tell us a little about yourself. (And why does your website describe you as a “delusionist?”)

My writing bio wanders a bit…

  1. I was a freelance writer in high school and college. Also quietly worked on novels that were really terrible.
  2. I sent an article to Surfer about colleges near waves and they bought it.
  3. A week later their east coast editor quit and I think I was the only east coast writer they knew. They asked if I wanted to be east coast editor and I just about fell over with happiness.
  4. I did that along with freelancing for five years or so, and then I started to do graphic design for some extra money.
  5. I sent a novel to a publisher who loved the first three chapters and asked for the rest. I hadn’t written it. So I rushed through it and lost my opportunity.
  6. Started doing web design (again to support my writing “career”, started a company, and then quit writing for about thirteen years like an idiot.
  7. Then in 2010 I had literally had a dream that would turn into my novel Angeli.
  8. I started blogging to get used to writing again and all of a sudden I remembered I was supposed to be writing.
  9. For the blog I went back to humor, which is what I’d always liked to write best. After Angeli was finally done, I decided it was time to do straight humor and wrote Slightly Stalky.

Then I just kept writing!

As for “delusionist” – That’s sort of an inside joke with my husband.  I’m so overly optimistic about everything he jokes that I’m delusional.  He says I’m not allowed to be excited about how many books I’ve sold until I’ve sold as many as Stephen King, so it will be a while…

Where or how do you get your inspiration to write?

I was “born” with the general inspiration. As for specific ideas, things will just grab me and I’ll feel the need to write them.

Do you have a specific writing routine?

I write about an hour or two a day if at all possible…sometimes life intervenes!

What is the hardest thing about the writing process for you?

Plots, probably. The characters literally talk in my head, and I just write down what they’re saying, so that part comes easy. The problem comes when they’ve run out of funny things to say and look at me as if to say “What now?” and I don’t know! Then sometimes I have to take off a day or two and chew on what comes next and how it all wraps up in the end.

Do you have any advice for other Indie authors?

Do things right. Don’t throw books together with no editing and cobbled together covers because you can’t afford it or can’t wait any longer. You’ll just end up with bad reviews or no sales. Take some time, bounce things off other people, save up. Join Facebook groups with experienced Indies and learn from them. Don’t think you know it all…ever. And don’t throw money at every promotional opportunity that rolls down the pike — there are a LOT of people out there trying to rip you off.

The Pineapple Port series are cozy mysteries. You have branched out to different genres. Why do you like to cross genres? What can you tell us about your other books?

I get ideas I really want to explore and if they don’t fit a series, I need to start a new one. It’s been a good way to find what genres sell better than others too. Angeli (3) was my first (urban fantasy), then Slightly Stalky (that’s autobiographical so that had to come out), Pineapple (4), a middle grade book (The Magicatory) I wrote for my nieces, and then finally the latest series is Kilty as Charged (2) – a highlander time-travel romance thriller. That happened because I realized I liked writing mysteries like Pineapple, but I wanted a series that could have a little more edge.

If you could choose a character from Pineapple Port, who would you want as a neighbor and why?

Mariska is my mother-in-law, so I have to say her or she’ll kill me. 🙂

What can you tell us about your upcoming Pineapple Port mystery?

The group goes traveling to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and gets trapped in a house full of body bits! I’m about 70% done.

Which country have you not been to yet that you want to visit and why?

I think I need to go to Ireland. All the men in my books end up Irish! I had a crush on Pierce Brosnan when I was a teen, so I guess I’ve always had a thing for Celtic men. Ha! In fact, my husband, who thought he was mostly Polish, took a DNA test and it turned out he was mostly Irish! I must have known it before him!

Thank you Amy, for your time! I look forward to reading the other books in the Pineapple Port Series.

If you sign up for her newsletter on her website, Amy will give you a copy (ebook) of Pineapple Lies for free!

Check out Amy’s books on Amazon, or follow her on Goodreads, Facebook or Twitter.

The Lost Ones (Part 3)

This is the final post on The Lost Ones: Writers we lost in 2016. After all, we are about half-way through 2017.

I had not heard of Helen Bailey before, but if you live in the UK you may have. She was a YA writer (the Electra Brown series), but wrote one book for adults: When Bad Things Happen in Good Bikinis.

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In 2011, she and her husband went on vacation to Barbados, where her husband drowned while swimming in the ocean. She witnessed his death. “A wife at breakfast, a widow before lunch.”

Trying to deal with the loss of her husband, she started up a blog, Planet Grief, in which she reached out to other people who had lost loved ones. The book When Bad Things Happen in Good Bikinis is a memoir of her journey through the process of grief, based on that blog. She tells about life without her husband, of the simple things that would make her break down in tears, and of her dog, Boris, her loyal companion.

Her stories are filled with raw emotion—especially in the first half of the book—her writing poignant, and sometimes funny. Reading about her experience of loss, of which she writes in a very honest and open way, is heart wrenching.

Her tone gradually changes in the second half of the book. Maybe, there is a way through the hurt, a way toward accepting. Eventually, she meets another man with whom she starts a new relationship.

The book probably had a different effect on me than on people who have experienced a similar loss. For me, it was humbling. The devastation of the loss of a partner, her grief and pain, are almost palpable. She talks about friends being there for her, friends not being there for her, and people being awkward, or even inappropriate. In our society, I feel as if we often try to ignore death. Like many, I have been afraid to say the wrong thing to people who have gone through loss, or I just don’t know what to say or how to be there for them. This book may not have solved that, but at least it has given me plenty to think about.

In her last entry, she has sold her old house and bought a new one with her new partner. She closes the book with “It will all be OK in the end. We promise you.” She, and many of the widows and widowers she had been in touch with, had found new purpose, new joy in life, and some, new love.

We all like happy endings. But for Helen things turned out differently. She disappeared in April 2016. Three months later, her body, and that of her dog Boris, were found hidden in her house. She was 51. In February 2017, her partner was convicted of her murder.

Reading the book made me sad, but reading the book knowing how it all ended for her made it infinitely sadder. Her voice was so personal, almost like you are getting to know her while reading.

One story in the book especially stuck with me. Helen’s best friend gave Helen and her husband a bottle of champagne, which Helen wanted to save for a special occasion. All of a sudden, the best friend dies. The champagne is now symbolic, and no occasion is ever special enough. But then Helen’s husband drowns, and the opportunity for sharing the champagne was gone forever. She writes:

Why couldn’t I have seen that just being alive and with [my husband] was the only reason I ever needed to open it? I had been waiting for some big flashy occasion to come along, when in fact life with him was the big occasion.”

Finally, Helen takes the champagne to a party. But, as irony has it, when they open the bottle, the champagne has gone bad.

There are many things I will take away from the book, but most of all it will be that. Cherish the times you have with your loved-ones. Make every moment special. And when life offers you champagne, drink it.

Don’t Wake the Bear

It’s that time of year again. Schools are out and summer has started. I am all for long holidays—since I love traveling—I just wish adults would get the same amount of time off as the kids…

Summer holidays are a great time to get away, but here I find myself in a bit of a dilemma. You see, Michigan is so pretty in summer that I don’t want to go anywhere. This time of year, the weather is finally gorgeous, everything is green, flowers are blooming and Lake Michigan and its beaches are beckoning. Why leave?

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One of my favorite spots in Michigan is Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We have been there a number of times, because, well, it is beautiful. Lakes, nature, small towns, islands…and of course, the dunes. The dunes are an impressive sight, sitting on top of glacial moraines, they tower 400 feet over Lake Michigan. A sign on top of one of the dunes warns you that, if you feel bold enough to bound, roll or slide down to the lake, you had better be able to make it back up.

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Down, down, down…Those tiny specks on the far left near the water, those are people…

I love to tell my kids the origin of the name “Sleeping Bear Dune”—after all, I do like a good story with a bear in it. Sleeping Bear Dune is named after a legend from the Ojibwe (Chippewa), a Native American tribe that lived in this area. “Michigan” comes from the Chippewa word Mishigamaa—which means “large water.”

The legend goes as follows:

Across Lake Michigan, on the Wisconsin shore, a raging wildfire broke out, trapping a mother bear and her two cubs. To escape, they plunged into the water and started swimming east. They swam and swam, until finally, they could see the Michigan shore. The cubs were getting tired and started lagging behind. The mother bear made it to the beach and walked up a high bluff to look out for her cubs. In sight of the shoreline, the exhaustion on the cubs took its toll. One cub drowned, and soon after, the other as well. Grieving, the mother bear lay down, refusing to leave, waiting for her cubs to return. The Great Spirit Manitou, who witnessed the cubs’ courage, commemorated them by raising an island on the location where each one went under. Then, he placed a slumber over the waiting mother bear and covered her with sand.

The islands from the legend are North and South Manitou Island, which you can see from the shore. Apparently, Sleeping Bear Dune used to have a vegetation-covered knoll on top, that resembled a sleeping bear. It has much eroded since. A beautiful version of the legend, with wonderful illustrations, has been published by Kathy-jo Wargin. It’s called The Legend of Sleeping Bear Dune and was named The Official Children’s Book of Michigan.

This legend has been retold over many generations, preserving the story and the landmarks, even though the actual “bear” may not be recognizable anymore. Hopefully, parks like these will endure as well, and continue to amaze our future generations.

If you find yourself in Michigan this summer, do visit this beautiful area. It’s worth it.

Author Interview – Jennifer S. Alderson

JenniferSAldersonAuthorPhoto_TwitterFor my first author interview, I am featuring Jennifer S. Alderson. I reached out to Jennifer after reading her second book The Lover’s Portrait (check out my review in the section “On Books”), which was a great read and I highly recommend.

Jennifer, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Thanks for having me, Lucia! I’m a long-time expat, an American who’s been living in the Netherlands since 2004. I am also the author of two novels, Down and Out in Kathmandu: Adventures in Backpacking and The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery, as well as my new travelogue, Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand.

In America I worked as a journalist and multimedia developer until massive burnout lead me to quit my job, buy a backpack and head off to Nepal as a volunteer English teacher for three months.

After several years on the road, I moved to the Netherlands to study art history and never left. After completing degrees in art history and museum studies, I worked for several museums before the economy crashed and the cultural sector imploded.

While applying for jobs, I wrote my first novel as a way of keeping my mind occupied. Writing about my adventures in Nepal and Thailand also helped curtail my wanderlust. I finished it between contracts, but never pursued publication.

After my son was born, I had the luxury of staying home to raise him. Writing became a way to connect with ‘grownup’ life and use the knowledge I’d gained during my studies. The Lover’s Portrait was so well-received by everyone who read it, I decided to publish both of my books and see what happened. I’ve been absolutely blown away by the overwhelmingly positive reception so far.

What is the hardest thing about the writing process for you?

The most difficult part about writing a mystery for me is creating a ‘secret’ worthy of being kept and working out the motivation of all of the parties involved. There has got to be a compelling reason for one person or group to want the object or information in question to remain hidden, but also an important reason for another party to want to locate or reveal it. The next step is figuring out how my series’ heroine fits into it all!

Why do you feel this is your genre? Could you branch out?

Mystery, travel, adventure and thrillers are the genres my books fall into. I love to travel and mysteries have always been my favorite genre as a reader. When I set out to write my first novel, Down and Out in Kathmandu, combining the two came naturally.

In my second novel, The Lover’s Portrait, and current work-in-progress, The Anthropologist, I branched out to include aspects of historical fiction. This was incredibly difficult for me because, aside from Philip Kerr, I had read very little of the genre and was not sure how much historical detail I should include.

After reading several popular historical fiction books, I felt like I had a grasp of the genre’s expectations and the level of detail expected. Only then did I feel confident enough to add in to The Lover’s Portrait several historical chapters centered around the character Arjan van Heemsvliet, an art dealer in Amsterdam in the 1940s.

The Anthropologist is more thriller than mystery, which is a challenge for me to add in more action and increase the story’s pace, in comparison with my first two novels. We will see how it all works out in a few months.

Your first novel takes place in Nepal. Did you stay there for a long time to get to know the place?

I volunteered as an English teacher in Kathmandu for three months and then spent another three backpacking around Nepal and Thailand. During my ‘volunteer and cultural experience programme’, I learned quite a bit about the cultural and ethnic diversity of Nepal and visited many important temples and holy sites with my volunteer group.

An important side story in Down and Out in Kathmandu takes place in several cities in Thailand I visited. Without having traveled through both countries, I would not have dared to describe either in the detail which I have done in my debut novel.

Your second novel takes place in Amsterdam, where you live now. Is it in any way auto-biographic?

My protagonist’s professional background and academic experience s are largely autobiographical. We both studied art history and museum studies at the University of Amsterdam and interned at the Amsterdam Museum. Unlike Zelda, I spent my time researching the connections between a ceramic and book collection, an assignment which had absolutely nothing to do with the restitution of art or World War Two.

But that is where the similarities between Zelda and I end. In many ways, she gets to do what I wanted to do. While the jobs dried up in the cultural sector before I could work my way up the professional ladder, Zelda is able to conduct the kinds of research and work on the kinds of projects I hoped to. It is fun to live vicariously through her and write about what ‘could have been’.

What can you tell us about your third and upcoming novel?

The third novel in the Adventures of Zelda Richardson series, working title The Anthropologist, is set in Amsterdam’s Tropenmuseum, an anthropologic and ethnographic museum, as well as Papua New Guinea, a country I have never been to. It is an art-mystery-thriller about Asmat bis poles, missionaries and anthropologists.

The storyline was conceived during my time as a collection researcher at the Tropenmuseum while working on a fascinating exhibition of Asmat bis poles held in Dutch museum collections. While searching through photographs and film fragments of Asmat tribes, missionaries and anthropologists working in Papua New Guinea during the 1930s through 1960s, I discovered that a well-known Dutch missionary – Reverend Gerald Zegwaard – was one of the last people to see Michael Rockefeller alive. During their meeting they’d made an appointment to meet again after Rockefeller returned from an acquisition trip upriver. The young American disappeared days later, resulting in one of the most famous unsolved mysteries of our time. That little detail about his un-kept appointment with Reverend Zegwaard stuck with me and eventually inspired this novel.

I only dared to write about Papua New Guinea because all of the chapters which take place there are set in the 1950s and 1960s. Because the country has changed so much since then, I relied on film footage and travel journals as the basis for my descriptions of the villages, landscape and people.

Which country have you not been to yet that you want to visit?

Kenya is a country I have wanted to visit for quite a while. While at the Tropenmuseum, I worked on a historical photography project in conjunction with the Nairobi National Museum of Kenya. Archival research was also part of this assignment. It is a fascinating land with diverse cultures and a turbulent history.

Thanks so much Jennifer, for your time. I look forward to reading your third novel!

Here you can find Jennifer’s website, her Amazon Author Page or follow her on Goodreads or Facebook. And definitely check out her books!

The Lover’s Portrait

51KNLQlFsBL._AC_US218_The Lover’s Portrait written by Jennifer S. Alderson, was a fun and exciting read!

The main character is Zelda, a young American woman, who has been immersing herself in Dutch culture, studying art. When she gets an internship at an art museum in Amsterdam, trying to restore the in WW II stolen art to the rightful owners, a painting gets claimed by two different women, and questions, as well as trouble, start piling up!

The mystery itself was compelling and made me want to keep reading (I read it in one day, because I couldn’t put it down). The location and time period were the icing on the cake.

The story not only takes the reader to the Amsterdam of today, but also of the past, during the time of WW II. Featuring the stolen and lost art during the German occupation of the Netherlands, it tells about what was happening in Amsterdam during that period, without it turning into a history lesson. It was both a fascinating glimpse back in time as well as very educational. I had the impression Jennifer must have invested a great deal of work researching the era and the city. Having lived in Amsterdam, one of my favorite cities, I felt the descriptions in the book were very accurate, bringing back great memories.

Obviously, it being a mystery novel, I don’t want to provide any more spoilers. You just need to read it!

The Lost Ones (Part 2)

This is the second part of Writers we lost in 2016, in which I highlight a book written by a writer who passed away last year, but was unknown to me.

This time I read a book from Cory Taylor, an Australian writer, who initially started out writing children’s books. I read her first novel, Me and Mr. Booker, written in 2011, which received the Commonwealth Book Prize for the Pacific Region.

me-and-mr-bookerThis was an interesting read. The person telling the story is Martha, a 16-year old girl, living in a sleepy, small town in Australia.

I thought Martha’s voice was authentic and well captured: A mixture of boredom, immaturity, and self-absorption, just “waiting for something to happen.” But, Martha is also witty, quite astute in her observations of the people around her, and of course, a teenager caught in her teenage years. Therefore, I couldn’t find myself disliking her, even more so since the adults in her life are—well—sad, filled with self-loathing and disappointment.

Martha describes her father as a bully as well as a loser, and faults her mother for having a hard time banning him from her life, even though they’ve split up. When Martha meets the Bookers, who just arrived in town from England, they are a welcome diversion, and—as the title suggests— she gets involved with Mr. Booker, who is twice her age. For me, there was nothing likable about Mr. Booker. It was very difficult and uncomfortable to read through the parts of their sexual affair, since their age difference made it such an obviously unequal relationship.

Most of the adults in the book appear to live a life of pretense and just going through the motions, while drinking too much. Yet, their disillusion with life is heart-breaking, because they all seem so trapped, without seeing, or perhaps, wanting a way out.

I read it in one afternoon. Truthfully, I am still not sure I enjoyed it; I like books that make me feel better, and this book does not provide many “feel-good moments,” as the people in it come across as mostly unhappy. Nevertheless, it was very well written, and the voices in the book felt real, resulting in a captivating story. More importantly, it kept lingering in my mind afterwards. The book made me feel conflicted; on the one hand I caught myself being judgmental about the characters while reading it, but then also feeling for them for being incapable of finding a way out. In the end, I was desperately rooting for Martha to escape this life and find something better.

Cory Taylor was diagnosed with melanoma in 2005. After Me and Mr. Booker, she wrote My Beautiful Enemy in 2013. Her last book, Dying, a memoir, was published just before her death. She was 61 years old.

The Handmaid’s Tale

Books I enjoyed:

The Hhandmaid's taleandmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

This book was written in 1985, but I only just read it. And it gave me chills.

Even though the pace of the book is a little slow, it was a compelling and interesting read. I think it was more my impatience that wished the story would move faster. The book was not all that enjoyable, because the content is, well, often disturbing. But then, a book doesn’t always have to be enjoyable; sometimes, it should just make you pause, and think.

The narrator of the book is Offred (which literally means she is “Of Fred”: Fred owns her). This dystopian novel sets the stage for a society that is profoundly female unfriendly—under disguise of ‘the common good’. Because of rampant infertility, women like Offred, who have proven to be fertile, can be abused by the privileged few—the Commanders who rule the new world—for the sake of creating offspring. Previous children have been redistributed, families torn apart—all to serve the new order. Some women have been given more power, foremost over other women, contributing to the inequality and keeping it in place, illustrating well how power can corrupt.

The fundamental religious society Margaret Atwood describes, is absolutely frightening.  The Constitutional Rights (the novel takes place in Massachusetts) have been abandoned and the secret police is abundant, as are the executions. What struck me most was the apathy of the narrator, as well as of the other women. Resistance is futile, at least, that’s what it feels like throughout the book.

Some reviewers have argued that such a sudden change in our society would be too unlikely. But in this year of 2017, I would argue, perhaps not. Women’s rights are still being debated on a daily basis. The novel mentions massive pollution, diseases, disasters and widespread infertility; the idea of civil unrest in the aftermath of such a situation may not be that ludicrous. Neither is the thought that a totalitarian regime would thrive in such conditions, or that people would accept it.

If anything, this book is still surprisingly relevant, even after the thirty-two years it was written. I would highly recommend reading it.

Meet Lucia Davis and her Paranormal Mystery! #AuthorInterview #TuesdayBookBlog #books

My Author Interview by Princess of the Light…

POTL: All Things Books, Reading and Publishing

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I love discovering new-to-me authors. I’m always on the lookout for fresh voices in publishing and when I first heard about Lucia Davis, I was intrigued. Her paranormal short story, The Baby on the Back Porch, is on my to-be-read bookshelf and when I asked for an interview, she agreed. So, please give a warm welcome to Lucia to the POTL blog and be sure to check out her debut novella. Take it away, Lucia:

 

What book do you wish you could have written?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, I love how he tells a beautiful story, but it has such a deeper meaning.

Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you?

Gosh, I hope my books inspire authors. 🙂

 I think for me, women like Jane Austen or the Brontë sisters, who wrote in a time when women were not empowered within society, or even…

View original post 1,525 more words

Women in Literature

Last month was Women’s History Month. I am a woman, so I wanted to give some thought to the status of women in literature. And their struggles.

In the past, a female author faced serious obstacles. Women’s rights were practically non-existent in the 18th-19th century, the time of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters. A woman belonged to her husband, and so did her property or inheritance, as well as their children.

Back then, it was generally frowned upon that women wrote books. Jane Austen published anonymously, under the name “A Lady.” The Brontë Sisters—Charlotte, Emily and Anne—wrote under their masculine pen names Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Charlotte Brontë explained this as follows:

“Averse to personal publicity, we veiled our own names under those of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell; the ambiguous choice being dictated by a sort of conscientious scruple at assuming Christian names positively masculine, while we did not like to declare ourselves women, because — without at that time suspecting that our mode of writing and thinking was not what is called “feminine” – we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice…” (from Wikipedia)

Taking a male pen name was not unusual. Mary Anne Evans published under George Elliot, because she wanted to be taken seriously. George Sand, was in fact Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin. Louisa May Alcott from Little Women wrote under A. M. Barnard.

Times do change, albeit slowly. Women voting rights here in the U.S were only granted in 1920. And what about that gender pay gap…?

There are still plenty of places around the world where women’s voices are repressed and should be heard. At least, here in the western world, the situation for women has improved over time. Nonetheless, when taking a closer look at how women authors here are appreciated, we are still not equal to men.

For instance, when it comes to big awards, women are lagging—for some awards more than others. The Pulitzer prize in Fiction was awarded to six women in the last twenty years. The Nobel Prize in Literature in the same time frame yields the same number. That’s only 30%. More interestingly even, as Nicola Griffith pointed out, of the women who won the Pulitzer Prize from 2000-2014, three had written a book from a predominantly male character’s perspective. As did the male writers who won the Pulitzer in the same period. And none of the books had a predominantly female perspective.

J.K. Rowling was told by her publisher to use her initials instead of her name, because it would do better with the boys, since Harry Potter is—well—a boy. It would be interesting to see if the Harry Potter series did less well with girls; I for one doubt it.

In 2015, Catherine Nichols, an American author, sent out six queries for her new novel under a male name; the result was five answers within 24 hours: three requests for the manuscript and two rejections. The previous fifty queries she had sent out under her real name, had received only two requests for the manuscript. She increased her queries under the male name to fifty, and the manuscript was requested seventeen times. Now, this may not be a completely valid scientific experiment, since she probably sent her queries to different agents, but taken together with the above, it’s not exactly encouraging either. Her male counterpart was received better, even though the book was the same.

I wonder though, if all this has less to do with the quality of writing or more with the persistent, though silent, perception within our culture—still—that men write better. Or for that matter, that a book written from a male perspective sells better—to both men and women. I caught myself in the library the other day, picking out books for my kids, actually debating whether the book I was holding would be too girly for my son, the main character in the book being a girl. But, and this is the crux, would I have asked myself that question if I’d picked out a book for my daughter and the main character was a boy? I doubt it. Now, I try to raise my children without gender bias, so why would I make that distinction?

Maybe it would be good for men to immerse themselves more in the female world, and read books from a female perspective. We, as women, seem to have no problem with reading books from theirs.

Next time I go to the library, I’ll keep that one in mind.