I’m not a fast reader. This was problematic for me, as an English major. In the four years of my undergraduate degree, I frantically motored through countless chapters of fiction, as well as theoretical material, and had to devote every spare moment to it.
It burned me out.
Since graduating, I’ve been trying to introduce reading for fun back into my life. Life and anxiety still hold me back, but still I try. Coming back to books after such a long time has meant having to determine what exactly I like to read. It had been so long since I’d chosen a book for myself. So I decided to fill in the gaps. It started as an attempt to read the classics—beginning with To Kill a Mockingbird—I’d never read in school. Luckily, as a bookseller with a tidy employee discount, I could (almost) afford to fund my own literary exploration. The effort, however, was quickly waylaid by the realization of what had really been lacking in my academic career.
Female authors. Where were they?
To be clear, there were a few female writers scattered through my college courses. A small few.
Let’s break it down a little. In high school, I didn’t read any significant amount of writing by women until my senior year AP English course, where the teacher seemed to make an effort at balance. That was great. It brought me to Jhumpa Lahiri, and introduced some early feminist concepts into my unknowing teenaged self. That was also great. Then there was college. Those who have taken multiple college English courses know that they generally fall into two categories: survey courses that span multiple authors and subjects, and author-specific lectures.
Respectively, I took individual classes devoted to the following male authors:
- Wordsworth and Shelley
- Freud and Foucault
And I took classes devoted to such female authors as:
Zero. The remainder of my classes were survey courses, most including a few women. One or two had a 50/50 or better split. The majority, however, were closer to 75/25. Where were my female-penned classics? And what of the plethora of genius, modern literary fiction written by women?
Why were female authors so absent from my education? And why, in turn, was I not correcting that by reading them for myself?
I decided that 2015 would be the year I corrected it. Again, as a painfully and unavoidably slow reader, I only made it through 11* books this year, each one by a female author.
I want this blog to be about making up for lost time with these women and the material they’ve produced. I wasn’t given the opportunity to think analytically, critically, or even just casually about these works in an academic setting. This blog is me making a space for myself. I will use it to spill my thoughts, feelings, theories, and maybe even reviews of the literature she wrote that wasn’t deemed important enough for my university’s curriculum. I’ll begin retroactively, working my way through what I read in 2015, eventually arriving at the present.
Time to make a room.
*I suspect it may have been 12, but I can’t remember if I began the book in 2014 or not. So, erring on the side of caution, we will leave Bossypants out of this blog for now.