“Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands.”
March is National Reading Month and Women’s History Month. In these last cold days celebrate both by reading a book penned by a woman. Here’s a list of some of our favorites.
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett (2009). In the early 1960s twenty-two-year-old college graduate Skeeter returns to Jackson, Mississippi. Researching a book about the African-American maids working in the white households of Jackson, Skeeter discovers what really became of Constantine, the beloved maid who raised her.
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling (1997). The book that launched a million readers. After living with his uncaring aunt and uncle for ten years, orphan Harry Potter is invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
- Seventh Heaven by Alice Hoffman (1990). In 1959 Nora Silk, a mysterious divorcee, her two children, and her Elvis records, move into a static suburb on Long Island. Everyone is touched by her, and their lives transform in ways they couldn’t have imagined.
- The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (1984). Life is hard for the people on Mango Street. They suffer from poverty, disease, abuse, desertion, loneliness, and lack of education, but for the main character, Esperanza, whose very name means “hope,” there is a chance she’ll escape the fate of those around her.
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1969). James Baldwin challenged Angelou to write a memoir that was also literary. She answered with this impressive story of a girl who learns with the help of literature to transcend a life of abandonment, prejudice, rape, and homelessness.
- The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark (1961). An unorthodox school teacher in an Edinburgh girls’ school chooses six students to be the creme de la creme. Each girl will be “famous for something,” one of them ultimately for betraying Miss Brodie.
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (1943). A coming-of-age story of a girl from a poor ethnic family in Brooklyn in the first two decades of the twentieth century.
- The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (1905). In 1890s New York City, Lily Bart is torn by her desires for a wealthy marriage and real love. She rejects her real love for a more successful match only to be ostracized by her wealthy social circle.
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (1847). Her only published novel is the classic love story between Catherine and the brooding Heathcliff on the Yorkshire moors. Emily Bronte died the following year at the age of 30.
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (1847). Orphaned and subjected to a cruel boarding school, Jane retains her spirit and becomes a governess at Thornfield Hall, where she meets and falls in love with the mysterious master Rochester.
–Judith Barker and Bonnie James