The Female Writers That Changed My Life

MAtwood

 

I have been reading since age six, and since then I have enjoyed getting lost in other worlds and other lives. The first female author I remember reading is L.M. Montgomery. I began reading the Anne of Green Gables series sometime around age 9 and by 11 I had read the entire series in two languages. I go back to those books often. I had always seen myself as an Anne Shirley, a hopeless romantic with a wild imagination with unruly red hair. Well, I don’t have red hair, but I remember wishing I did. L.M. Montgomery shaped my worldview like no other author. She made me start thinking about this whole writing thing. And my first love was Gilbert Blythe (played by Jonathan Crombie in the movie).

 

Other writers that hold a special place in my heart are Lois Lowry (The Giver) and Harper Lee (To Kill A Mockingbird). I read both of those books sometime around age 13, and I feel both have affected my ethics and outlook. They are quite different books and teach different things, but fortunately they can be encompassed in one person, if that makes sense.

 

I spent the longest time studying the poetry of Emily Dickinson. I don’t remember when I first began reading her. I do remember being in 7th and 8th grade and already enjoying her work. By the time I was 16, I had several of her poems memorized. She holds a special place in my heart.

 

I began reading Maya Angelou while still in grade school. There’s a lot that I realize now that I didn’t get. Despite that, I still felt her words spoke to me directly. I too knew why the caged bird sang. She was a phenomenal woman, a phenomenal human being, full of wisdom, who had gone through many hardships in life. I hope I will one day be half that wise.

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size

But when I start to tell them,

They think I’m telling lies.

I say, it’s in the reach of my arms

The span of my hips,

The stride of my step,

The curl of my lips.

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

 

In high school, I discovered Sylvia Plath, which led to a minor obsession. I read the Bell Jar with academic earnest. I studied her poetry and her life. I poured over her unabridged journals. Her confessional and confrontational tone (in her poetry) allured me. I wanted to uncover her secrets, and I couldn’t get over her tragedy. I can relate to her deepening depression that soon enough overtook her, and I see her as a lesson. I think about her children, the ones she left at such young ages. I see them in my son’s eyes. Maybe her final act of self-destruction has helped keep me from mine.

 

Growing up in Chicago with literary and poetic ambitions, it was hard not to know the work of Gwendolyn Brooks. She was still alive when I was in high school, so to me she was a living legend. She wrote about social problems, especially those affecting the black poor. Even though I was a white inner city girl in the 90s, I was acutely aware of the race issues in Chicago. I found her work relatable because of the emotions. Emotions don’t know race or skin color.

 

Sometime around age 16 was a burst of literary discovery for me. I was reading a lot, going to readings and performances. Around this time, I discovered Margaret Atwood. I began with Surfacing and slowly made my way through a portion of Atwood’s books. The last book I read before moving to Poland was Oryx and Crake. Nowadays, Margaret Atwood is THE writer to emulate. She has written so much, spanned various genres, and keeps going with no sign of stopping. She’s a smart writer writing for intelligent readers.

 

While in college (at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago), I took a reading class that focused on writing around WWII, or something like that. In that class, we read Marguerite DurasThe War. Even though that was a decade ago, I can still recall many details from that book. I loved her voice, which, of course led me to search for other books available in English. The school library had a few, and there was always Myopic Books, where I stocked up for cheap.

 

I could probably write several posts about Myopic Books in Chicago. It was one of my favorite places since I was 15 years old. I miss its smell, the whole laid-back vibe, and leafing through books for hours.

 

Other writers

This is not meant to be the most inclusive list, just the writers I feel influenced me the most as a human being, who gave me some direction in life, with whom I connected in some way. I spent plenty of my preteen and teen years reading typical books like the Babysitters Club and Judy Blume’s books.

 

So there you have it, the female writers that influenced me the most. What writers influenced you the most?

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20 thoughts on “The Female Writers That Changed My Life

  1. This is true passion. Thanks for sharing. I love reading and hearing about the passions I never developed from a young age.

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    • Thanks, Leticia. It’s funny that you call it a passion. I guess it is. Reading to me is like breathing, so it always seems like something I have to do (not in a forced by someone way, but something that is a requirement for me to live). Words and books are friends I feel I can turn to at any time. I think that’s why I’d always wanted to be a writer. If I could do that for one person, I could die happy.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great selection! You got me thinking and remembering lots of childhood and young adulthood novels that have been so meaningful to me. I too loved the Anne of green gables series, as well as all the Judy bloom books. I also loved Laura Wilders “little house on the prairie” books.

    Other writers that have impacted my life include;
    Louisa May Alcott (little women), Emily bronte (wuthering heights), Elizabeth Gilbert (eat, pray, love), some of Carrie fishers books and pretty much all of Jodi picoults novels.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

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    • Thanks. I don’t know how I forgot Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Jo is up there with Anne as far as inspiring characters I wanted to emulate. Plus she was a writer too. I also loved Laura Wilder’s books.

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  5. The first for me was Enid Blyton. The Magic Faraway Tree series then The Famous Five series. Wow! I honestly believe she was responsible for enabling me to use my imagination in writing at such a young age and to continue with it as I am today. Great post. Thinking of your grass roots that inspired you is always a good thing as it gives you a wave of motivation for your own writing. I will remember this as a trigger for me now! Thank you so much for sharing this Ula!

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  6. It was Carolyn Keene – though I later learned that was a pen name for the writers who made $1.25 per book to write the Nancy Drew series that captured my heart. I could hide from my young worries as I tried to figure out whodunit. I’ve been drawn to writing and mystery ever since. Great post. Good ideas for upcoming reads! Thanks.

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    • Thank you, Ariel. Those are great recommendations. I hadn’t heard of Kelly Link, but (after googling her) she sounds like the kind of writer I should be reading as magical realism and fantasy are my cup of tea. The titles of her books and stories are amazing in and of themselves.
      I’d heard of Jhumpa Lahiri because of the Man Booker Prize nomination for The Lowland, but I have yet to read any of her work.
      I will add these two writers to my to read list.

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