Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Classic Female Writers 101

It would be my dream to take a class composed of solely female writers. I have talked about the lack of diversity on my required reading lists as an English major many times here on the blog. So today I have composed a reading list that I would love to see in a female writers class. I have read all these and will link you to my reviews. 

There are many improvements I would love to make to this list and many books by women I need to read yet. You will notice that there is only one woman of color on this list, which of course means I need to get to my giant TBR pile of books by women of color. 

 
Of course Austen had to make this list, this is one of my favorite Austen's and after studying it in class, I have really come to appreciate it and think about it quite often. This is a great Austen to start with, but of course I recommend all of her other works as well. 

The only word to describe this novel is masterpiece; Shelley wrote this when she was only nineteen and it is one of the most brilliant novels I have ever read. The themes in this novel are so in-depth but the writing and plot are so easy to follow. This is a must read.

Jane Eyre is one of the most resilient characters in all of literature. I love this character-study novel and Jane's bravery. This is the only Charlotte Bronte I have read so far, but of course I have plans to read more.  

 
Kate Chopin is my home-girl. Her short stories will blow you away, and The Awakening is such a brave piece of writing for its time. I first read it in high school and hated it because I couldn't connect to it at the time, but reading it again while in my early-twenties blew me away. 

5. Trifles by Susan Glaspell- 1916 (Scroll to the bottom of the post for thoughts on this one)
This is a brilliant one act play that I am itching to reread. It has the cutting wit that great feminist pieces often have.

This classic essay touches on the struggles of the woman artist and scholar. Trust me, it will have you nodding your head along in agreement the entire way through. 

 
This is a book that doesn't get enough love! This is a novel about race and women and has a great ending. I was so engaged the entire time I read this. 

One of my all-time favorite novels and one of my all-time favorite authors, Plath is a must read. If you are a young female student, this book will save your life. The brunt honestly that Plath writes with shocks and pleases me oh-so-much. 

This is the memoir that di Prima was asked to write by her male publisher and not her real memoir (read my review for more info. on this because it's so interesting and infuriating.) This novel is a must read because of the commentary it makes on what is considered "interesting" from women writers. I'm really eager to read di Prima's real memoir, and make sure you check out her poetry too because its great.

Atwood is a modern staple in women writers, and this novel is disturbing and so important. If I could put one book in the hands of every human, it would be this one. 

What books did I miss? What did you think about any of these reads? 
Have a great school year if you're headed back to school! 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Recently Read: Only Ever Yours

Author: Louise O'Neill
Genre: Young Adult
Publication Date: 2014
Page Count: 406
Rating: 4.5/5

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Frieda lives in a world both different and very similar to the world we live in. Girls are no longer born but created in a lab and trained their entire lives to fit into one of three duties: a companion, a concubine, or a chaisty. The duty of companion and mother of sons is the most sought after, and every girl at Frieda's school is fighting for one of the ten spots available. Frieda has always been ranked second, underneath her best friend Isabel, until suddenly Isabel begins to pull away and Frieda begins to slip in the rankings. Her only options are get back on top anyway she can, or live her life in one of the other thirds, or worse, be sent underground. 

I bought this book a couple of years ago when I heard it described as the YA version of Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, which is one of my favorite novels of all-time, and I finally got around to reading it. I follow Louise O'Neill on Twitter where she is such a vocal supporter of women's rights that it reminded me of this book sitting on my shelf and inspired me to pick it up. 

I agree that this novel has similar themes to Atwood's, but I don't think this is a "rip-off" or "teenage version" of that novel (as some of the reviews I have seen claim) as it deals with a lot of different ideas and themes as well as the overall common themes of feminism. I feel like some readers just lump every book that has a theme of feminism as one-in-the-same which is of course not true. Within the topic of feminism there are tons of different ideas, theories, themes, and challenges, and this novel does a great job of showcasing that.  

This is a dystopian future where females are valued for their beauty above all else, and secondly comes reproduction. This book is disturbing and jarring and a little too real. This book has so many elements of our current society in it that it begins to become more reality than fiction. This book deals with female-female competition, body image, relationships with food/ harmful eating habits/ sex and consent and so much more. It's a difficult read at times, but it's so compelling you won't be able to put it down. I read it in two sittings because I had to know how it was going to end. 

The end of this novel was fantastic. I really didn't know what was going to happen, and what did happen was jarring and impactful in the perfect way. This book is a great addition to the conversation around women's rights, and I think it's a great YA read. I love both this book and The Handmaid's Tale and young girls reading either of these novels makes me very happy. I respect YA novels that deal with heavy topics like this because it allows young readers to access and think about themes that they wouldn't discover if they didn't read adult books. I see no reason that adult and young adult can't cross-over and deal with heavy topics. 

I'm really interested in O'Neill's works and plan on picking up her second novel (also dealing with feminism in regards to rape and consent) very soon. I'm excited to see what she does in the future as I think she has a lot of potential and the courage to say what needs to be said. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Poetry Spotlight: Spoken Word/Slam Poetry

In my second year of college I took an Introduction to Poetry class and I fell in love with reading poetry. Before then, poetry was always a little intimidating and a medium that I didn't have much experience with. But after that class, I became addicted to reading poetry, and during the class I actually found myself thinking in and expressing myself in poetry- which I never would have guessed would happen in a million years. So, with this series I'm here to share some of my favorite poems in a way that I'm sure will turn out rambley and unorganized.


I discovered the world of Youtube slam poetry by accident and haven't looked back since. I love seeing slam poets read existing poems as well as their own and here I've rounded up some of my favorite slam poetry performances for those wishing to dip their toes into the world of slam poetry. If you have a favorite slam poetry or poetry performance, I would love to hear about it!

One of my favorite elements of slam is the strong feminist themes that are a part of many of the poems. Many of these poems have feminist themes but because they are modern and the poets are so young, the perspective on feminism is so modern and relevant (not that feminism is ever not relevant but you know what I mean.) I love that spoken poetry is a place for young women's voices to be heard in such an honest and uncensored way.

If you want to enter the world of slam/spoken word poetry, the first name you need to know is Rhiannon McGavin. She is the current teen-poet laureate of Los Angles (which is a position I didn't even know existed) and is one of the better known slam poets. She has a Youtube channel and you can see her perform there as well as on other slam channels. Some of my favorite of her works include:

This poem she did with drawtheline.org for reproduction rights

This is the video I was introduced to Rhiannon through. Her she recites a poem by Charles Bukowski and then her original poem written in response.

The last one I will link is this one titled "Hereditary."

This is the accidentally discovered video that got me into slam. It's Alyssa Paul performing one of my all-time favorite poems by Plath "Daddy" and then her original response poem. This Plath poem really comes alive when it is read aloud and she does a great job.

Some of my favorite poems with feminist themes include:
"The Rape Poem to End All Rape Poems" (mature language in this one)
Kait Rokowski's "How to Cure a Feminist" (language again)
Karina Stow's "Trigger Warning"

So there's a list of my current favorite slam poems. I would love to update this list in this future when I have more to add, and I would also love for you to leave recommendations of your favorites!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Recently Read: The Astronaut Wives Club

Author: Lilly Koppel
Genre: Nonfiction
Publication Date: 2013
Page Count: 265
Rating: 3/5

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With the creation of NASA and the first astronauts in 1950s America in the midst of the Space Race, came the first astronaut's wives. The wives of the Mercury Seven became the focus of the media and the nation right alongside their husbands, and the title became a full-time job. Koppel tells the story of the wives of America's final frontier explorers, highlighting the often over-looked contributors to the Space Race.

This book has been on my radar and my shelves for a while, but I just decided to pick it up on a whim the other day. Space exploration is a subject that I don't really know a lot about, but I'm always interested in hearing the untold stories of women throughout history, so this book caught my attention. This was recently made into a T.V. show in the U.S. that was canceled after one season, which is a shame. After reading the book, I think this is a topic I would love to see a show on, but you know, majority female cast shows have to meet much higher ratings than other shows in order to stay on the air.

I found this book really interesting, I learned a lot about the Space Race and the wives and their astronauts. The 1950s were such an oppressive time for women in America and it was even more so for these wives who were expected to be the epitome of happy, middle-class America. Many of these women had professions and college degrees before marrying and dedicating themselves to their husband's career. It was really interesting to her about the talents and accomplishments on these women from both before and after their husband's fame. 

I wasn't crazy about the writing style of this book. The writing style seemed too personal and almost a little immature at times. It's hard for me to put my finger on the exact word to describe it, but it just seemed a little off to me. The organization of the book was also pretty lose, The narrative jumps around from wife-to-wife and jumps around in time. It's difficult to keep all of the wives straight because some are casually mentioned once or twice while others are focused on for a lengthy period of time, but because I was just reading this for leisure, I didn't mind being a little confused on which wife was married to which astronaut from time-to-time.

I was fascinated by the wives of the Mercury Seven and spent quite a long time researching them after finishing the book. The book includes two sections of color-photographs which I also loved seeing and spent an afternoon looking for more. This book has definitely peaked my interest in the space race, and was a nice addition to my history research mental bank. Studying the celebrity of these families and the image NASA wanted the wives to portray would be a great lens through which to examine the 1950's. 

If you're interested to see some pictures of the wives and families, here's a link.

As always, leave me your nonfiction recommendations below!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Theme Spotlight: Fictional Novels Featuring Real People

It's been a while since I have done a theme spotlight so here I am back at it today with fictional novels that feature real people. Many of these have female main characters because I love reading more about the women who have been pushed to the sidelines over the years. I have lots more on my TBR so you can expect a part two in the near future. 

Previous Theme-Spotlights:

McLain is one of my favorite adult historical fiction writers. She tells the story of real women so well. This is her second novel that was released this year and I loved it! I think I liked her debut a bit better but I think that's because it's about the literary world. This one is about Beryl Markham, a female pilot living in colonized Africa. I loved that this followed her from childhood to adulthood and how much of a free-spirit Markham was. This one has a connection with Out of Africa if you are interested in that.  

This is a fictionalized account of Zelda Fitzgerald and her life with F. Scott. I find the Fitzgeralds just as fascinating as the next person so this was a great read. Again, this is one of those books that tells a well-known story from the woman's side. Foweler paints an amazing picture of the Lost Generation's Paris as does the next book on my list. 

This is McLain's debut which focuses on Hadley Hemingway, the first wife of the infamously masculine and jerkish Ernest Hemingway. Before reading this, I was not a fan of Hemingway as a person, I can't deny the quality of his writing but I don't like anything about him personally. This book did not change my mind but instead showed me the strength and class of his first wife. This book features a lot of 20's Paris literary and artistic legends and I was absolutely sucked in. In fact, it may be time for a reread. 

Another favorite from before blogging, this series contains Oscar Wilde as the solver of murders along with his circle of literary figures including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker. I love this series and how well Brandreth has captured Wilde's character. Another series I am hoping to revisit soon. 

Bonus: Inspired by a real woman
This one is inspired by a true story and a real woman, but the characters did not exist. I had to add this one because it's a great female lead historical fiction novel that will make you feel every single emotion at once. 

Leave me your recommendations for fictional books about real people in the comments!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Recently Read: Places No One Knows

Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Genre: Young Adult/ Magical Realism
Publication Date: 2016
Page Count: 384
Rating: 4/5

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On the surface Waverly is perfect. Best friend to the alpha female at school, track star, and wielding an extra-curricular list a mile-long. But at night, she doesn't sleep; she runs. Until one night she runs through her dreams to the house of Marshall the mysterious burn-out. Waverly continues to visit Marshall when she dreams and the two build a relationship, but can they bring their relationship into the day?

I've been on a pretty big magical realism kick lately and when I saw Maggie Stiefvater recommend this one on Goodreads, I immediately requested it from my library. I was really interested in the dream element of this novel, and I thought it was done super well.

This novel's strongest feature is the characters. Waverly is a sociopath. She's a genius, and a robot. She suffers from insomnia and presents a fake version of herself to others all day. Marshall is loveable and troubled. His character isn't as strong as Waverly because she is just so much more interesting than him, but he is fully developed and likeable in the way that burn-out-boys-who-are-having-trouble-at-home always are.

I thought the magical realism element was really well done and blended seamlessly with the contemporary story-line. The dynamic between characters was really interesting and hearing Waverly narrate her high school experience was interesting because of her personality. I thought this novel touched on some really great themes and I really liked how the topic of outgrowing friendships and faking it to fit in was addressed as it wasn't too dramatic. I also liked the the magical realism element was turned into a relatable situation; Waverly and Marshall's connection and relationship exists when they are alone but not when they are with other people. I would have liked to see a few of the side characters explored a bit more, particularly Autumn because she was so interesting to me.  

Also, this book has my new all-time-favorite and most-relatable quote of life:
"I've spent my life wishing gay dead men could be my boyfriend."
(cough, cough Oscar Wilde, Lord Byron, James Dean etc. etc.)

This is the first work of Yovanoff''s I have read, but I am interested to read more as I have heard her other works are quite dark. As always, leave me recommendations for magical realism in the comments as well as which Yovanoff book I should read next!