An Open Letter to the Women of America

Dear women of America, particularly women of color,

You don’t know me, but I need to ask you to do something. It’s difficult and possibly unpleasant. But I’m convinced the future of our country depends on it.

Please run for office.

The white men who are in charge of pretty much everything have proven unable to create the kind of world we want to live in. That’s why America needs you.

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Reading Women Continued: H – Z

Read Women 2014 by Joanna Walsh

Read Women 2014 by Joanna Walsh

Continuing on the theme of reading women authors in 2014 – a mini-movement launched by the writer and illustrator Joanna Walsh – here are more selections my book group has read over the years. We read books by and about women.

Again, these books represent our collective decisions, not necessarily my personal recommendations. I’ve loved many, but not all, of them.

In a previous post, I listed authors from A – G. Scroll down to find it.

Here are authors from H – Z.

  • Haigh, Jennifer – Mrs. Kimble
  • Hamilton, Gabrielle – Blood, Bones & Butter
  • Hamilton, Jane – A Map of the World
  • Hamilton, Masha – The Camel Bookmobile
  • Harris, Joanne – Chocolat
  • Hazzard, Shirley – The Great Fire
  • Hegi, Ursula – Stones from the River
  • Heilbrun, Carol – Writing a Woman’s Life
  • Hulme, Keri – The Bone People
  • Hurston, Zora Neale – Their Eyes were Watching God
  • Huston, Nancy – Fault Lines
  • Jones, Ann – Looking for Lovedu
  • Karr, Mary – Lit
  • Kearns, Rosalie Morales – Virgins and Tricksters
  • Kerman, Piper – Orange is the New Black
  • Kingsley, Mary – Travels in West Africa
  • Kingsolver, Barbara – Flight Behavior; The Lacuna; The Poisonwood Bible; Pigs in Heaven
  • Kornblut, Ann – Notes from the Cracked Ceiling
  • Lahiri, Jhumpa – Unaccustomed Earth; The Interpreter of Maladies
  • Larson, Nella – Passing
  • LeGuin, Ursula – Left Hand of Darkness
  • Lessing, Doris – African Laughter
  • Levy, Andrea – Small Island
  • Lively, Penelope – Moon Tiger
  • Livesey, Margot – Eva Moves the Furniture
  • MacDonald, Ann Marie – Fall on Your Knees
  • Maloy, Maile – Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It
  • Markham, Beryl – West with the Wind
  • Marmon, Leslie Silk – Ceremony
  • Marshall, Brenda – Dakota, or What’s a Heaven For
  • Mason, Bobbie Ann – Feather Crowns
  • McDermott, Alice – After This; Charming Billy;
  • Messud, Claire – When the World was Steady
  • Min, Anchee – Red Azalea
  • Miner, Valerie – Trespass
  • Morrison, Toni – Paradise
  • Mujica, Barbara – Frida
  • Munro, Alice – Runaway; Too Much Happiness
  • Naslund, Sena Jeter – Ahab’s Wife
  • Naylor, Gloria – Mama Day
  • Nemirovsky, Irene – Suite Francaise
  • Nunez, Sigrid – The Last of Her Kind
  • O’Brien, Edna – Country Girl; The Country Girls Trilogy
  • O’Connor, Flannery – Three by Flannery O’Connor
  • O’Faolain, Naula – Are You Somebody?
  • Orleans, Susan – The Orchid Thief
  • Otsuka, Julie – The Buddha in the Attic
  • Ozeki, Ruth – My Year of Meats
  • Patchett, Ann – Bel Canto; State of Wonder; Truth and Beauty
  • Piercy, Marge – Sex Wars
  • Prager, Emily – Eve’s Tatoo
  • Prose, Francine – Reading like a Writer
  • Proulx, Annie – Postcards; Shipping News
  • Quinlen, Anna – One True Thing
  • Reichl, Ruth – Tender at the Bone
  • Robinson, Marilynne – Gilead
  • Roffey, Monique – White Woman on a Green Bicycle
  • Roy, Arundhati – The God of Small Things
  • Sebold, Alice – The Lovely Bones
  • See, Lisa – Snowflower and the Secret Fan
  • Senna, Danzy – Caucasia
  • Shields, Carole – Unless; The Stone Diaries
  • Sittenfeld, Curtis – American Wife
  • Skloot, Rebecca – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
  • Smiley, Jane – A Thousand Acres; Duplicate Keys
  • Smith, Abbe – The Case of a Lifetime
  • Smith, Patti – Just Kids
  • Smith, Zadie – White Teeth
  • Soulif, Ahdaf – The Map of Love
  • Stockett, Kathryn – The Help
  • Strayed, Cheryl – Wild
  • Strout, Elizabeth – Amy and Isabelle; Olive Kitteridge
  • Summer, Jane – The Silk Road
  • Trapido, Barbara – The Traveling Hornplayer
  • Tremain, Rose – Sacred Country
  • Walls, Jeanette – Half Broke Horses
  • Waters, Sarah – Fingersmith; The Night Watch; Tipping the Velvet
  • Weber, Katharine – Triangle
  • West, Dorothy – The Wedding
  • Wharton, Edith – The House of Mirth
  • Wilentz, Amy – The Martyr’s Crossing
  • Wilkerson, Isabelle – The Warmth of Other Suns
  • Williams, Lena – It’s the Little Things
  • Winterson, Jeanette – Art and Lies; Why be Happy when you can be Normal; Written on the Body
  • Woolf, Virginia – A Room of One’s Own; Mrs. Dalloway
  • Zeller, Zoe – The Believers; Notes from a Scandal

2014: The Year of Reading Women


With these colorful cards in the shape of bookmarks, British writer and illustrator Joanna Walsh has sparked a movement. Throughout social media, women and men are pledging to read more – or exclusively – women writers this year. Journals are promising to publish and review more women writers. Book lists fly back and forth across the Internet. The twitterverse is aboil with #readwomen2014, the hashtag Walsh started.

To this I say hooray! And congrats! And join the party – we’ve been waiting for you. After all, for 21 years I have been in a book group whose membership has changed but whose organizing principle has remained the same: we read books by and about women.

What all this means is thanks to Joanna Walsh, it’s possible that for the first time in my life I might actually be trendy.

 Not the year of reading white women

Let’s take a quick look at the card she designed. The bookmarks represent Walsh’s favorite authors, and it did not escape my notice that they are all white. But on the back of the card, in tiny print not discernible to anyone over 40, she provides a more diverse list of 250 women writers. Her goal is to help those who want to Read Women 2014 but don’t know where to start.

Collective reading decisions

In that same spirit, I’d like to share a list of some of the titles my book group has read. This list does not represent my own favorite books or authors, but rather the collective reading decisions – achieved with much discussion and red wine – that my book group has made over the years. And yes, in deference to Read Women 2014 I’ve left out the books that were about women but written by male authors.

The list is alphabetical by author. Let’s start with A – G.

  •  Allison, Dorothy – Bastard Out of Carolina; Cavedweller
  • Alvarez, Julia – How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accent; In the Time of the Butterflies
  • Anshaw, Carol – Aquamarine
  • Armstrong, Karen – The Spiral Staircase
  • Atkinson, Kate – Life after Life
  • Atwood, Margaret – Alias Grace; The Robber Bride
  • Austen, Jane – Emma; Lady Susan; Sense and Sensibility
  • Avery, Ellis – The Tea House Fire
  • Barbery, Muriel – The Elegance of the Hedgehog
  • Bloom, Amy – Away
  • Blum, Arlene – Annapurna
  • Boo, Katherine – Behind the Beautiful Forevers
  • Braddon, Mary Elizabeth – Lady Audley’s Secret
  • Brooks, Geraldine – March
  • Brooks, Gwendolyn – Various readings
  • Cather, Willa – Death Comes for the Archbishop
  • Chang, Jung – Wild Swans
  • Chase, Joan – During the Reign of the Queen of Persia
  • Chen, Pauline – Final Exam
  • Chevalier, Tracy – Remarkable Creatures
  • Conway, Jill Ker – The Road from Coorain
  • Cook, Blanche Weisen – Eleanor Roosevelt, Volumes 1 and 2
  • Cook, Karin – What Girls Learn
  • Danticat, Edwidge – Breath, Eyes, Memory
  • Davenport, Kiana – Shark Dialogues
  • DeRosnay, Tatiana – Sarah’s Key
  • Desai, Kiran – Inheritance of Loss
  • Diamant, Anita – The Red Tent
  • Didion, Joan – Where I Was From; The Year of Magical Thinking
  • Dillard, Annie – The Maytrees
  • Donaghue, Emma – Room; The Sealed Letter
  • Duke, Lynn – Mandela, Mobutu and Me
  • Dunn, Katherine – Geek Love
  • Egan, Jennifer – Look at me
  • Ehrenreich, Barbara – Nickel and Dimed
  • Eliot, George – Mill on the Floss
  • Feinberg, Leslie – Stone Butch Blues
  • Fischer, Erica – Aimee and Jaguar
  • Flynn, Gillian – Gone Girl
  • Fuller, Alexandra – Don’t Let’s go to the Dogs Tonight
  • Gardam, Jane – Old Filth
  • George, Elizabeth – Believing the Lie
  • Golden, Marita and Shreves, Susan – Skin Deep
  • Goodman, Allegra – Intuition
  • Grant, Linda – When we Lived in Modern Times
  • Grealy, Lucy – Autobiography of a Face
  • Greene, Melissa Fay – Praying for Sheetrock
  • Greenlaw, Linda – The Hungry Ocean
  • Gruen, Sara – Water for Elephants

Your must-read list of women writers?

What do you think about The Year of Reading Women? Which women writers should go on a must-read list? I’d love to see your suggestions.

Missing: Sunday’s Women

Pueppilottchen aka Dollily

I have recently railed about how women writers are underrepresented among books that get published and reviewed.

Well, guess what? Women are also missing from Sunday morning.

You may have seen this recent report from Media Matters, which documents that on the Sunday political talk shows, only about 30% of the guests and 15% of the individuals interviewed are women. (The only hero of this tale is Melissa Harris-Perry, who hosts the most gender-balanced Sunday talk show on television.)

So what? After all, not everyone gets their news and opinions from the Sunday talk shows. Most people get them from Jon Stewart.

But here in Washington DC, the Sunday shows are serious business. Powerful public figures go on the shows to float policy proposals or advocate a position. What they say on these programs is widely quoted and discussed in mainstream and social media.

What happens when most of a nation’s public authorities – those who are called upon to tell us what is going on in the world and what it means – are men? How does that shape our understanding of the world and our role in it, as a country and as individuals?

I know this kind of gender argument is a blunt instrument that misses other dynamics – such as race, class and culture – that might affect how people lead, govern and interpret the world. Yet in every race, class and culture, half the people are women – and they are the half we don’t hear from.

In the U.S., women constitute a slight majority of the population. In some categories, we constitute a distinct majority: minimum wage workers, for instance, or people living in poverty. (On second thought, maybe that’s only one category since, at $7.25 an hour, “the minimum wage” and “poverty” are synonymous.)

But I’m not holding out hope for completely proportionate representation for women on the Sunday talk shows or elsewhere; I’d settle for something less. Fifty percent, let’s say.

Women would comprise half of Congress and half the Cabinet. Half the state legislatures. Half the Supreme Court. Half the judiciary at all levels.

Women would constitute half of the writers who get published and reviewed. Half the experts on news programs. Half the executives of the corporations that own the mass media and run the Internet.

Would this scenario really make the world a better place? Or would women simply mess things up in a different way, with different blunders and blind spots?

I’d sure like to find out.

(Photo: Pueppilottchen aka Dollily)