Kate Bernheimer reminded me fairy tales are not only for adults. Kate Chopin showed me that sometimes your character has to die to live.  Mary Gaitskill gave me boldness. Harper Lee taught me in and out of school.  Alice Munro showed me how to peel the layers back on a story and to take it in a different direction than it started. Anaïs Nin taught me sensuality. Alissa Nutting taught me that women can be just as bad as men. Edith Wharton showed me an unhappy ending can be just as good as a happy one.

I won’t lie: I read a lot of male authors. Ernest Hemingway was probably the most influential writer of my teen years, and ever since I discovered Raymond Carver, I knew I found my writing soul mate. It’s easy to forget/neglect women writers because they are historically overshadowed by their male counterparts, an unfortunate occurrence I blame on the publishing industry and our society as a whole. This year’s VIDA Count, which tracks the number of women writers published in literary journals throughout the country, is about to be released, so this is the perfect time to stop and think about my own reading habits. That’s why when I heard about #ReadWomen2014, I wanted to take part. Started by writer, illustrator, and blogger Joanna Walsh, the campaign contains a simple goal: Only read women authors in 2014. Here is a link to her website, which tracks the progress from a small idea shared with friend to an international story, even written about in The Guardian.

Walsh's women writers bookmarks, courtesy of her website http://badaude.typepad.com/.
Walsh’s women writers bookmarks, courtesy of her website http://badaude.typepad.com/.

Maya Angelou. Margaret Atwood. Jane Austen. Aimee Bender. Judy Blume. Charlotte Bronte. Emily Bronte. Willa Cather. Beverly Cleary. Lydia Davis. Joan Didion. Jennifer Egan. George Eliot. Sara Farizan. Betty Friedan. Zora Neale Hurston. Rachel Joyce. Jhumpa Lahiri. Dorianne Laux. Anita Loos. Rachel Kushner. Michelle Latiolais. Joyce Carol Oates. Mary Oliver. E. Annie Proulx. Ellen Raskin. Marilynne Robinson. Karen Russell. Alice Sebold. Elissa Schappell. Patti Smith. Eudora Welty. Laura Ingalls Wilder. Virginia Woolf. Lidia Yuknavitch.

And on and on and on.

These are many of the women writers who have influenced me throughout my life. Still to come on my 2014 reading list: Simone de Beauvoir, Paula Bomer, Lauren Groff, Lorrie Moore, Zadie Smith, and countless I have yet to discover. Who are your influential women writers? Consider joining the #ReadWomen2014 campaign. I’m not promising it will change the publishing industry, but the very fact that it gets people talking and thinking about the serious gender inequalities in publishing is an important step forward.

  1. Oh, so you read something because somebody publishes a statistics? How I about I publish a statistic that you read at least 80% of books by USA and UK writers (born or long time residents)? Will you then starting paying attention to writers from outside those countries (sex irrelevant) and writing on various topics?

    While we’re at that, how many books you read by Agnostics, Jehovah Witnesses, Muslim (especially Muslim women being happy with their lives and not being a bag for husband’s boxing, etc.), Animists, Hindu or Buddhists? Why is it only “sex” that matters?

    How many authors you asked if they want to be perceived through their sex instead of quality of their books? I wouldn’t like to get a recommendation based on a sex of the writer, I’d prefer to get a recommendation of a good writer (regardless of sex). Or based on the topics/genre the author is writing about.

    Even if you put a list of the 100 best women writers, it won’t do anything better than posting a list of 10 authors (mixed genres, various countries) writing on similar topics giving various points of view.

    My studies taught me looking at every thing from various points of views, and this is making me more aware of things. Only then you can have a full view. But reading just women (or men) won’t be as fulfilling as it could be.

    1. Kama,

      I appreciate your passionate response to my post and do agree with you that my literature choices should not be so Western-centered. No, I don’t believe in reducing writers to their gender alone, but I do feel that often women writers are reduced to their genders. Historically, men’s literature is seen as more important, regarding more serious issues, and because so, more worthwhile of recognition, while women’s writing is domestic, concerned with the private sphere, and often relegated to demeaning categories like “chick lit” or “beach reads.” I’m not saying this is universally true, and certainly positive strides are being made.

      I respect your fervor regarding reading across genders, races, cultures, and religions, and do think that is important (I didn’t mean to imply that I’m only reading white, American, Protestant women writers this year, because that is not my intention). I love how passionate people are about the politics of literature. I’ve taken up gender equality in the media as my cause, that is why I chose to write about that subject within this forum. I look forward to branching out in my reading choices and welcome suggestions.

      Thanks for reading,

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