"Have you thought about writing your family history, but found yourself stuck from the start? Writing a family narrative can be a daunting task, but Karen Jones Gowen found a way to bring her mother's story to life." (Homespun Magazine)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Women's Voices in Literature

Women's voices in literature are much too rare. Yes, there are more women being published now than ever but in what genre? YA fantasy. Paranormal. Teen angst and romance. Erotica. And can I say that YA anything is not a woman's voice, especially not as the genre currently exists. Much of it today is like a Barbie doll expression, where the female author creating the work has hidden her real voice behind a 14-year-old perpetual whine. Why? Because women's literature isn't selling, and YA girl stuff is.

I find this a great loss to our current literary culture. I love women's fiction, women's stories and women's perspective on life. Why do so many of us think our lives are dull and boring, not worth writing about, not worth reading? I understand the need for escapism in fiction, we all crave it. But I can read a book about a Jewish family in Brooklyn in the 1970's (The War of the Rosens by Janice Eidus), to escape in a story which embraces me with a (nearly) foreign culture.

Sigh. Of course we all don't read and write the same kinds of books. If YA paranormal romance is what rings your chimes, then go ahead and read them. Or write them. How sad that these are the silly books ringing the cash registers while the women's voices lie silent between forgotten pages.


  1. Hi

    One of my absolute favourite autobiography is Wild Swans by Jung Chang. It was more a history of her mother and her grandmother and great grandmother and I'm still stunned by how invaluable a resource this book is in giving voice to these women who would otherwise have remained silent.

    Take care

  2. Agree with you Karen.
    It's a shame that the cash registers rule.
    But on a positive note, I read an article about women writers, apparently women are writing a lot of screenplays for movies and for theatre, maybe dialogue suits us.
    When book success is judged by sales, a lot of the really excellent writers get lost on the way, shame !!

  3. I hear ya! In Norway, the only females selling books are modern crime writers - no drama or the like. It's very tragic!

  4. I fourth that. In most cases life is stranger than fiction. I wonder though is it because so many women writers do not want to offend and fallout with family members.

  5. Ann, very interesting take on it. Women, being more relationship-oriented than men, might very well find this a deal-killer, especially in some families. I was fortunate, because in the families discussed in Farm Girl, everyone was dead but my mom. In Uncut Diamonds, my sisters were cool because they're an independent, liberal, creatively-minded bunch. However, I have a sister-in-law who was a bit put out by how I portrayed her (or what she thought were her) parents. didn't bother me though since I don't have any relationship with her anyway.

    Alexandra, Oh how I would love to read women's voices from Norway!

    Brigid, screenplays are good! I go to every film the Ephron sisters are involved with.

    Old Kitty, I'm adding that to my Goodreads list. It sounds like my kind of book.

  6. Hi Karen,
    Just wanted to stop by and say thank you for your lovely comment on my blog today. I can't tell you what it meant to me. It's so nice to "meet" you. As for womens' voices in literature, I am so with you on this one.Fantasy, paranormal, horror, these are just not my thing. YA seems hot now as well. And memoir, although popular, is hard to get published. Sigh.

  7. I just started reading "The Help" about black women during the 1960's I think. I only got the free sample but talk about increadible women's fiction. It is a must read, but I haven't decided if I want to buy it or just borrow from the library. As someone who reads a lot of crime fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, I don't know if this is a book I will reread over and over. It feels too real for the escapism (is that a word?)I usually like in my books. Anyone read it?

  8. Jane, I'll probably read it eventually since I've heard so much about it.

    Karen, thanks for visiting and leaving a comment!

  9. karen, you probably can - most of them are translated. If you're serious, I'd reccomend Karin Fossum or Anne Holt (both crime writers, pretty sure they're translated).

  10. Sorry I'm late on commenting this one--Alexandra Crocodile left a link in her recent post, so I found my way here.

    Some of my favorite books are fantasy novels written by women in third person, and they don't really have anything to do with women's issues OR hiding a woman's voice behind the narrative of a teenager. I think they're demonstrating a prowess for writing that few could ever hope to achieve, yet without feeling the need to gender identify themselves at all.

    I don't read much literature, though, so I honestly couldn't say anything on that subject, but I do know that a lot of the literature out there written by women has to be under a male pen name, and that makes me really sad and angry.

  11. Alexandra, thanks for your comment. I somehow missed it until now so don't know if you'll see my response. I hope I didn't come across as bashing on any particular genre. I haven't read any fantasy authored by women except for JK Rowling of course, and she is brilliant. Yet she had to go by her initials at the publisher's request for a gender neutral pen name. And I do know that most of the fantasy bestsellers are by men.

  12. Alexandra Crocodile, I will go look up those books!! They're going on my to read list.


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