I have been following with some interest the #readwomen2014 proposal made by writer/illustrator/blogger Joanna Walsh. (She also wrote an article in The Guardian). It has attracted a lot of interest around the world. It started with cartes de voeux bookmarks and has since blossomed into a huge Internet meme. Flavorwire has produced a 50 books by women authors list which is interesting though somewhat idiosyncratic. There is a Twitter account and a Facebook account. There has been reference to the Vida count. And Lauren Oyler has an excellent article on How to be a woman writer. Even Time has jumped in, with some suggestions as well. Some commentators, including some men, (though not Walsh herself), have vowed to read only women authors. A quick web search will reveal lots of bloggers and others commenting on the proposal. I do not intend to read only women writers. I have thought about setting aside a few months to read only writers from one specific country which I feel is underrepresented – Belgium, Brazil, Lebanon, Mexico and Norway, for example, though there are several others (and, yes, I have lots of unread books from these countries) – but never for women. However, I have never done it and probably will not. The trouble with having over 200 nationalities on my site is that it is hard to devote much time to one country or, indeed, to one sex. However, as always, I do plan to read more women writers, though I may well fail again. Meanwhile, I am going to do as others have done and mention a few women writers that you might read, focussing on lesser known ones. All have at least one book available in English.
I have a soft spot for Acker, a punk, a fighter, a character, who sadly died of breast cancer aged fifty, as she had no health insurance and could not get proper treatment. Anyone who can write a book called Blood and Guts in High School must have something going for them. While perhaps not a great writer, she was certainly a fun and interesting writer.
Louky Bersianik was a fiercely feminist writer, particularly L’Euguélionne (The Euguelionne; The Euguelion) an attack on sexism.
María Luisa Bombal is a wonderful Chilean writer, barely unknown in the English-speaking world, though some of her work is available in English. No fireworks, just good writing.
I don’t know why Carmen Boullosa isn’t better known in the English-speaking world though her criticism of the USA might have something to do with it. She is witty, iconoclastic, feminist, anti-colonialist and a first-class writer.
Mary Butts is a very much underrated English novelist, whose reputation has improved somewhat but not nearly enough. She writes about an imagined England of the past.
Rosario Castellanos is another Mexican writer who is not as well known as she should be in the English-speaking world. She was very much concerned with the poor treatment of the Indians in her country.
Only one of Fausta Cialente’s books is available in English. Sadly my favourite of hers – Le quattro ragazze Wieselberger [The Four Wieselberger Girls] – is not. Cialente was from Trieste and deals with the complex multiracial society of that city.
Alba de Céspedes is another Italian writer who was not part of mainstream Italy – her grandfather was first president of Cuba. She wrote about unhappy marriages.
Another Mexican writer whose best-known novel – Los recuerdos del porvenir (Recollections of Things to Come) – is a feminist work using magic realism.
Teolinda Gersão is a Portuguese writer who has barely been translated into English. Her best novels deal with male-female relationships and their respective roles.
Ellen Glasgow, as I said on my website, is one of those Southern writers who is neglected because she is Southern. This is a pity as she wrote a series of first-class novels, often dealing with changes in life in the South of the United States.
Qurratulain Hyder is an Indian writer who writes in Urdu. She writes about the history of India and Bengal in her novels.
A L Kennedy
A L Kennedy is not unknown but she is a very fine writer and deserves a better reputation than she has.
Rosetta Loy is a Jewish Italian writer who writes about the effects of war on people as well as on Jewish issues.
Angeles Mastretta is another Mexican writer who really should be better known in the English-speaking world.
Ana María Matute
Ana María Matute is one of my favourite Spanish writers, famous in Spain for her Spanish Civil War trilogy but also the author of many other excellent novels.
Minae Mizumura’s 本格小説 新潮社 (A True Novel) is one of the finest novels to come out of Japan in recent years, at least of those that have been translated into English.
Terézia Mora is a Hungarian-born German writer. Only one of her novels has been translated into English so far but, as she won the German Book Prize last year, more will follow.
Elsa Morante is all too often remembered primarily as being the wife of Alberto Moravia which is a pity as she was a very fine writer in her own right.
Anna Maria Ortese
Anna Maria Ortese is another Italian writer who really should be better known in the English-speaking world. Her two best novels have been translated into English and are well worth reading.
There do seem to be a lot of Mexican novelists in this list and here is another one. Elena Poniatowska was the daughter of a Polish prince, though her mother was Mexican and she was brought up there. She was a journalist as well a novelist and wrote books about those less fortunate.
This list could not be complete without a Catalan writer and Mercè Rodoreda is one of the finest of either sex. Like many writers of the period, the Civil War affected her as a writer, as can be seen in her best-known novel, La plaça del Diamant (UK: The Pigeon Girl; US: The Time of the Doves).
Joanna Scott is a very much underestimated US writer who often writes about the US past but, above all, writes superb, intelligent and very readable novels.
Alexis Wright is an Australian from the Waanyi tribe whose novels deal with the rights of the aboriginal peoples of Australia.
This is a small selection. You can find more on my women writers’ page. Read them and you may well be surprised at both the quality and variety of writing you find.