where ya contemporary writers come to write
There are no Jack Kerouacs or Holden Caulfields for girls. Literary girls don’t take road-trips to find themselves; they take trips to find men.
"Great" books, as defined by the Western canon, didn’t contain female protagonists I could admire. In fact, they barely contained female protagonists at all.
So, I sorta get what this person is saying, but I also get a bit tired of people who complain about how few books there are with women characters that aren’t about love. First of all, I love love. In my opinion love is the single most important thing about life. I know these kinds of posts are mostly dissing “romance,” but frankly, a lot of the dissing of “romance” comes from the long tradition of dissing anything women like (i.e., sexism). Finally, who gives a fuck about “great” books as defined by the Western canon? A lot of them have nothing to say about people like me (lesbian, Asian American), but that’s why I don’t look to them for the Truth About Everything. Here are some books I read as a girl and a woman that are about women doing things, including embracing love:
The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley — Girl’s a self-taught dragon slayer. Yeah, she finds some love too, and it is complicated and wonderful, but she saves the world first.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery — Sure, everybody knows about Gilbert Blythe, but Anne Shirley’s tale is first and foremost about Anne. She doesn’t even give Gilbert the time of day till basically the last page of the book. The Anne books are about a smart, vulnerable girl with big dreams who goes after them. Plus there’s her friendship with her bosom friend, Diana Barry, which is clearly one of the best female friendships in literature.
Every book that Madeleine L’Engle ever wrote — Girls! Doing! Things! My favorite L’Engle will always be A Ring of Endless Light, because the main character, Vicky Austin, discovers just how complicated life and love are. They’re not simple, things don’t always end happily, grief can be transformative, and love is good.
Finally, that quote and that article are both shaped by a heteronormative worldview that’s common but disheartening. For queer folks especially, love is certainly not taken for granted, and I don’t think there are nearly enough love stories for us. The first book I read with a woman falling in love with another woman was Sarah Waters’ Tipping the Velvet. It was such an eye-opening miracle of a book. The main character Nan King’s romances are definitely not about relying on men. Nan’s romances are acts of courage and acts of claiming her own identity. They’re rebellious and brave and sexy and inspiring.
I know that women often get the short end of the stick when it comes to literature and the discourse on it. But it’s not like books about wonderful complicated loving women don’t exist. They do. I’ve read them my entire life. It would be great if we could sometimes talk about how awesome these books about girls and women are, instead of forgetting they exist.
Re-reblogging for Malinda’s commentary
Fuck yeah, Malinda Lo. *fist pump*
Thank you, Malinda.