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.

Spring Book Festival

Spring Book Festival Starts March 27-29!

Celebrate Spring and find your next favorite book!
Visit http://navigatingindieworld.com and click on “The Spring Book Festival”.
From there you can scroll through our genres and discover the books as well as the authors who wrote them! Several books will have great discounts.

My personal books are listed under “Mystery”. The Charm of Lost Chances will have a promo running in the U.S. for $0.99 on March 27, and $1.99 on March 28-April 1st. Please take full advantage!

There is also a giveaway for $150 dollars worth of prizes so there’s nothing to lose! Come join us!

And please tell all your friends. Share and like!!

Why I Still Read to My 8 Year Old…

I have always read to my children. This made much sense when they both were younger, since they had trouble reading on their own. But my oldest is eight now, and reads like a maniac. His bedroom floor is covered with books, animal encyclopedias, and magazines. I have to hide “The Economist” from him, otherwise he’d read that too. Believe me, he has tried.

Of course, reading to your child from an early age on is beneficial. It builds vocabulary, communication and reading skills, and hopefully creates a love for reading, which, in this digital age, is something I fear may get lost.

But when is the moment to stop and let them go at it alone? Despite my son’s great reading skills, I still read to him at night on a frequent basis. I don’t have to—obviously—and sometimes I wonder for how long I should continue it, but for now, I still think it’s important.

For one thing, the books I pick to read are different. These are the books that he could read, but maybe not quite fully understand. These are the books with bigger words that he can read, but does not necessarily know what they all mean. These are the books through which I can gage his emotional readiness for other books. So, reading to him offers me a great understanding of where he is at, emotionally, and cognitively, and it gives me an opportunity to explain things if needed.

But it goes beyond that. Reading to my son (or my daughter) is a wonderful way to connect with them. This is our moment of the day. The moment he does not have to vie for my attention with anyone else. The moment he gets to cuddle up with me and we share the same experience. It is a special moment of bonding we both look forward to. He will actually ask me to read to him.

This year, we have read many Roald Dahl books—because we’re both fans—and others of course, and I look forward to tackle some of the classics we haven’t covered. In my “Books I enjoyed reading” section I have highlighted a wonderful book we just finished, which we both very much enjoyed reading.

So, how long will I continue to read to my son? The answer is, I don’t know. I guess at some point he will give me the signals that he doesn’t need or want it anymore. It’s a day I know will come and I already dread. But, for now, I will keep reading to him, for as long as I can.

The Lost Ones

As 2016 has passed, and we are starting 2017, I can’t help but think of the writers we lost last year. A few of them made the “celebrity death list,” and they and their books are well known. Think of Harper Lee, who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, Umberto Eco from The Name of the Rose, or Elie Wiesel, the Nobel-Peace-Prize winner who wrote Night, and just recently, Richard Adams, the author of Watership Down. Their books had much publicity, and some were translated to the movie screen, ensuring that they and their work will not be easily forgotten.

Wikipedia has a 2016 death list of famous people as well, which includes more writers, known and lesser known, from all over the world. The list itself is pretty extensive and primarily comprised of international athletes, politicians, actors and singers, but also more obscure professions like wine-producers and serial killers. I am not sure who decides on the “notability factor” —I also spotted a polar bear, a cockatoo, a penguin, as well as a horse and a cat.

Most writers on this list appeared to have made it to a very respectable age. If this means writing induces longevity, this is encouraging. But maybe it just means one usually has to spend a long life writing to become notable. I suspect this might be the case.

A few writers mentioned stood out, primarily because it seemed to me they left us too early, with plenty of writing still ahead of them. I am an avid reader, but had never heard of them prior, or read their books. Despite that, they are not unknown writers, often with fame in their own country. Somehow their stories struck me. So I decided to find their books and read one from each of them. To celebrate their work, since their words will remain, even after they themselves have long gone.

The first writer I wanted to highlight is Roger Hobbs. I read his debut novel, Ghostman, which is a crime novel. He wrote it during his last year in college and it was published in 2013, made the NYT bestseller list and won several awards. Warner Bros. bought the movie rights.

ghostman

I will say up front, books like these are not my usual read. Nevertheless, I cruised through it as I found it to be slightly addictive. The pace is high and the plot well thought out. It is violent at times, but then it revolves around a heist and quite a few merciless criminals, so that wasn’t completely unexpected. It’s well written and very descriptive (sometimes a bit too much… perhaps) which usually read well and made it easy to imagine what was happening.

I found the lead character not unsympathetic, but he has a personality that is very hard to pin down. Despite this, his character was surprisingly well-developed. He comes across a bit cold, and his life seems devoid of real relationships; as a reader it made it harder for me to bond with him, but for the story, it works! He is a ghostman, after all.

For a debut novel, and for a writer as young as he was, it was quite impressive. Roger Hobbs wrote a second novel, Vanishing Games, which I haven’t read yet, but look forward to doing so. He never finished his third. He died last November from a drug overdose at the age of 28. I can only imagine that with his talent, he would have written many more.

RIP Roger Hobbs.

 

Finally…

Finally, winter has arrived in Michigan (ugh), finally, my website is—sort of—ready (read: work in progress) and finally, the sequel to “The Baby on the Back Porch” has been delivered to the editor. It always surprises me how much time writing a story takes, after writing it.

First, there’s editing by myself, then my beta-readers read it and give me feedback (thank you, lovely ladies!), after which there will be more editing, and then maybe it’s ready for the actual editor to take a look. But of course, I am not her only client, so chances are there is some more waiting involved. And after that, you guessed it, there’s probably more editing.

If I was more organized, I would have had my cover ready to go by now, so I would at least have something to show you. Unfortunately, I am still  on the fence about the title of the sequel…and it’s hard to have a cover without a title. Decisions, decisions.

So what can I tell you? Well, Sara returns to Dunnhill, but things don’t work out quite as she hoped. We all know they rarely do. For one thing, an old girlfriend of David’s decides to come back to Dunnhill as well. And if that wasn’t the only problem, Sara remains a magnet for disturbing experiences that demand her attention. Again, she will try to solve a mystery, but will she succeed in giving the story a happy ending? You will have to read the novella to find out! I will keep everyone posted on the release date. 🙂

One last word on the website. I hope you’ll like it. It’s been a long process, with a lot of cursing and yelling at my laptop. I can type, but I am not very tech-savy. Feel free to give me suggestions by leaving a comment or contact me on my contact page, if you have questions or think of something on how to make it better. Just FYI, not every page has content yet, but the plan is to fill up those spaces as I go along!

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