14 Women Who Have Won the Nobel Prize in Literature

Doris Lessing winning the Nobel prize in literature

The Nobel Prize in Literature has become the most prestigious literary prize. The Swedish literature prize has been awarded annually since 1901. It is given to an author from any country who, in the words of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, created “in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction.”

The Nobel Prize has been awarded to 853 men and only 51 women in all fields combined since its inception in 1895, 14 of whom achieved this honor in literature. Above right, Doris Lessing receiving her award in 2007. Read More→

Remembering Meena Alexander, Indian Poet and Scholar

Meena Alexander

There are times when you take more interest in a poet or an author after you read her obituary. This is what happened with Meena Alexander, whom I had read in passing but devoured in great detail, especially after I heard that she had succumbed to cancer on November 21, 2018 in New York.

Meena could be termed an international poet as she was of Indian origins, born in Allahabad in 1951 and raised in Kerala, India before the family moved to Sudan.

Meena finally made the U.S. and New York City her home, where she was a professor of English and Women’s Studies at City University of New York and Hunter College. For five years in between, she also did teaching stints in various universities in India. Meena’s writings clearly reflect her life —  migration, the trauma of moving places, and finally reconciliation. Read More→

A Pilgrimage to Harper Lee’s Monroeville, Alabama, “Maycomb” of To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee photo by Michael Brown, 1957

To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) by Harper Lee continues to be one of the most frequently taught novels in American high schools and is beloved by readers of all persuasions. The Pulitzer Prize-winning book has sold more than forty million copies and has been translated into some forty languages.

After a gap of fifty-six years, the 2016 publication of Go Set a Watchman set off a fervor of renewed interest in the famously private (though not, as myth would have it, reclusive) author.

No wonder, then, that Harper Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, draws thousands of visitors each year who arrive to pay homage to her literary legacy. This small Southern town (population around 6,000) was the inspiration for Maycomb, where both books are set. The photo above right was snapped by Lee’s friend Michael Brown in 1957, the year she sold her manuscript, which had yet to be much edited. Read More→

12 Classic Novels by Women Authors That Make Great Book Club Selections

Their Eyes Were Watching God 75th Anniversary Edition

Most often, book clubs (aka book groups) choose recent publications for discussion, many straight off the current bestseller list. And this is understandable, given all the great books coming out. It’s hard enough to keep up with all the new publications, but can we make the case for discussions of classic literature by women authors?

Some suggestions in this post are by authors of the past that are still well known, while others have fallen under the literary radar. Either way, these novels make for fantastic reading and stimulating discussion. Books remain classics for a reason, after all. With universal themes of what it means to be a woman — and what it means to be human — these great stories are timeless. Read More→

Harriet Ann Jacobs

Harriet Ann Jacobs

Harriet Ann Jacobs (February 11, 1813 – March 7, 1897) was an African-American writer who was widely known for her brave escape from slavery, and for her role as an abolitionist, speaker, and reformer. She is alternately referred to as Harriet A. Jacobs or simply Harriet Jacobs.

Raised in Edenton, North Carolina, Harriet and her brother John were born into slavery under the principle of partus sequitur ventrem (that which is brought forth follows the womb). This meant they were born into slavery because their mother was already enslaved. However, it wasn’t until Harriet turned six that she even learned she was a slave. Read More→

Quotes from Persuasion by Jane Austen

Jane Austen Persuasion stamp 2013

Persuasion (1817) is the last novel that beloved British author Jane Austen completed. It  was published six months after her death. It may well be Austen’s most romantic story, and yet, as with her other works, it’s far from frivolous, exploring themes of lost love, missed opportunity, heartbreak, and becoming one’s own person.

Anne Elliot, who is twenty-seven when the story begins, is a member of a family who suffers the indignity of having to lower their status as a way to get out of debt. At twenty-seven, a woman of that time would have been considered far from the bloom of youth. Read More→

Gabriela Mistral 

gabriela mistral

Gabriela Mistral, born Lucila Godoy Alcayaga (April 7, 1889 – January 10, 1957), was a Chilean poet, educator, diplomat, and feminist best known for being the first Latin American woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. She was awarded “for her lyric poetry which, inspired by powerful emotions, has made her name a symbol of the idealistic aspirations of the entire Latin American world.”

 Born in Vicuña, Chile and raised in the small Andean village of Montegrande, her family was rather poor. Her father, Juan Gerónimo Godoy Villanueva, abandoned the family less than three years after she was born. Though he abandoned them and left her mother to support the family, he did pass down his gift for teaching. 

Read More→

Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson (December 14, 1916 – August 8, 1965) was an American author whose works influenced a generation of genre writers who came after her. Two areas of writing put her on the literary map — wryly humorous accounts of family life, and disturbing tales of psychological terror. It might come as no surprise to those who have read her work that Jackson was fascinated with witchcraft and Satanism while growing up. 

Jackson’s stories and novels have disturbed and fascinated readers and critics alike with their unabashed exploration of the dark side of human nature. Yet, there’s a sense that she hasn’t received her due — In A Jury of Her Peers, Elaine Showalter wrote, “One of the most sophisticated crafters of fiction … with work compared during her lifetime to Poe and James, she has long been neglected by most critics of American literature.”

Read More→

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