Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it, and there will be an end to blind obedience.”

~Mary Wollstonecraft

By Jessica S. Manuel

Today is International Women’s Day. I feel the same about today that I do about Earth Day: we should celebrate our female accomplishments everyday. Nonetheless, I want to carve out some mental space to champion the power of the female pen today.

Helene Cixous helped the world, and academia especially, recognize and appreciate this power many moons ago. In “The Laugh of the Medusa,” she describes something called “l’ecriture feminine,” or literally “feminine writing.” Without getting too deep into Lacanian psychoanalysis here, let’s just say this kind of writing stands askew from the rest of the male-centered prose that we’re used to. Because a woman remains on the margins of the Symbolic Order, even more so when she articulated this concept back in 1976, the female pen does not play by society’s rules.

As we know, there might be power in this, but we also recognize how difficult it is for a woman to break through a male-dominated society. While contemporary female authors have it a little easier than their predecessors, we still champion and appreciate their accomplishments, knowing it was a harder road for them.

So there are some incredible female minds out there writing non-fiction, but listed below are some of my favorite female authors of fiction. Next to their name, I’ve included the story or novel that moved me with a quick explanation as to why.

Kate Chopin: The Story of an Hour

This story has the power to open your eyes to the silent oppression that women feel.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman: The Yellow Wallpaper

I believe this is what will happen to me, and most women, if we ever stop writing.

Nella Larsen: Quicksand and Passing

These two novellas articulate an important racial, cultural trend known as “passing” and open our eyes to the nuances of racial articulation.

Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar

This novel united an entire generation of young women and gave a voice to their neurotic tendencies, most of which were culturally conditioned.

Barbara Kingsolver: Animal Dreams

A moment in this novel describes how few women stand with the feet firmly planted on the ground but tend to waiver on the sides of their feet, suggesting they almost apologize for their existence.

Octavia Butler: Parable of the Sower

A young girl displays hyperempathy in apocalyptic circumstances and opens our eyes to how primitive our emotions are.

My Favorite Female Authors

Are there any female authors that changed your world? I’d love to celebrate with you today and everyday, so be sure to let me know in the comments.

For tips on How to Celebrate International Women’s Day, check out Bethany’s post HERE.

14 Responses

  1. I love this! I haven’t read any of these books yet but I really want to. Kingsolver is high on my list this year.

    I recently read Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit, both of which are wonderful feminist books.

    1. Kingsolver has such a delicate way with words. I hope you enjoy it. I’m planning on reading The Poisonwood Bible later this year, but I loved The Bean Trees and, obviously, Animal Dreams.

      Thanks for the recommendations- adding them to my list now!

  2. Thanks for the recommendations. I’ve been looking for something new to bite my teeth into and can’t wait to read one of these books x

  3. Wow, these are really good recommendations. I’ve actually been looking for something to sink my teeth into so I can’t wait to try one of these books.

  4. The story of an hour and the yellow wallpaper are classics for sure. I really need to read the Bell Jar. I know it’s famous and I’m a former Englis Lot major but somehow I missed it.

  5. I found out that my childhood favorite female writer (no not Jk Rowling) – Francine Pascal who wrote (or at least put her name to it) never wrote a single Sweet Valley high books. I was really upset and annoyed that someone hard work got no credit for it. Sorry until Harry Potter (sorry) came about Fracine Pascal was my favorite female writer. xx

    1. I used to read those books, too. In third grade, I pretended to be sick so I could stay home from school and finish reading one! So crazy. I’d say J.K. Rowling deserves the love and respect more anyway, though.

    1. Ah! Great addition. I think I’ve only read A Year of Magical Thinking, but I loved it. I suspect I would enjoy her writing quite a bit.