In former years this was done entirely unconciously – first there were Enid Blyton, Auguste Lechner, Rosemary Sutcliff, Helen Cresswell, Joan Aiken, Tamora Pearce, and Susan Cooper; then Anne Rice, Anne McCaffrey, Marion Zimmer Bradley (of course!), Mercedes Lackey, Jennifer Roberson, Dorothy Gilman, and Victoria Holt; eventually Diana Gabaldon, Susanna Kearsley, and Dorothy Dunnett; and then I discovered the world of romance fiction.
By now, though, it is a conscious decision. I know I prefer the way women tell stories to the way men go about the business. Women’s stories are much more relevant to my experiences and to how I see the world than men’s.
A few weeks ago I read Joanna Russ’s How to Suppress Women’s Literature, and it made me feel sick and angry all at once because the same mechanisms she describes in that study are still at work today. And so, I decided to act. Inspired by Jane Brocket’s The Gentle Art of Domesticity, I’m now collecting books by forgotten women writers which I intend to read once the Dratted PhD Exam Thingie (DPHET) is over and done with.
Among the authors on my list are:
- Nancy Mitford
- Elizabeth Taylor (not the movie star!)
- Jan Struther
- Dorothy Whipple
- Marghanita Laski
- Winifred Watson
- Julia Strachey
- Barbara Euphan Todd
In addition, I’m thinking of offering a course on “Lost Voices: Forgotten Women Writers” next winter.