Author and radio personality Sandra Tsing Loh’s latest work, “The Madwoman and the Roomba,” covers one turbulent year midway on the journey of its author’s life. From January through December 2016, Tsing Loh takes her readers through a confessional, irreverent and self-deprecating account of modern midlife womanhood. On June 23, Tsing Loh will participate in a Northwest Passages Book Club virtual forum on her work hosted by comedian Julia Sweeney.
In the meantime, if you’re looking to add more female authors to your reading list, here, in no particular order, is a varied list to consider.
Toni Morrison: There are few writers of more acclaim than Toni Morrison, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and other accolades. Born in Ohio in 1931 to a working-class Black family, Morrison worked as an editor at Random House before devoting her life to fiction. Her notable works include “Beloved,” “The Bluest Eye,” “Song of Solomon” and many more. Precise prose, enthralling ambiguity and poignant relevance characterize Morrison’s greatest works. Start with “Beloved.”
Virginia Woolf: Despite an ultimately fatal series of tragedies, English writer Virginia Woolf produced some of the most highly regarded and widely referenced novels and essays of the 20th century. She was a pioneer of stream-of-consciousness writing and inspired early feminists with essays like the much-quoted “A Room of One’s Own.” Novels like “Mrs. Dalloway,” “To the Lighthouse” and “Orlando” are revolutionary in their own way, however uneventful they might sometimes seem. Start with “To the Lighthouse.”
Jane Austen: Jane Austen’s works are perhaps some of the most beloved classics written. Her characterizations and portrayals of female relationships, while they might seem initially subdued, were revolutionary. Early reviewers praised her realism and positively compared her work to that of Homer and Shakespeare. Today, the endless appetite for film and TV adaptations of her most popular novels, “Pride & Prejudice” and “Emma,” shows the force of their continuing popularity. Start with “Pride & Prejudice.”
Nicole Krauss: One of the notable authors of the past two decades, Nicole Krauss is a New York-born novelist known for works such as “Man Walks Into a Room,” “History of Love” and “Great House.” Her novels tend to explore her Jewish heritage, loneliness, memory and language. Her books are immersive and profound and deeply relevant to everyday living. Start with “Man Walks Into a Room.”
Madeline Miller: The classics have always fascinated readers, young and old, and Madeline Miller makes this ever apparent in her two novels “The Song of Achilles” and “Circe,” the latter of which is among the most acclaimed works of the past few years. Her scholarly approach to retelling the histories of Homer’s characters results in compelling, well-composed novels. In “Circe,” Miller’s narrator, despite being a goddess, sheds light on the question of what it means to be mortal. Start with “Circe.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Coming from Nigeria to the U.S. as a student in the late ‘90s, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie brings a distinct perspective to literature and a writing style unapologetically her own. Her list of accolades is lengthy, and nearly every one of her published works is critically acclaimed. Her stories are drawn from her experience; “Americanah” follows her adaptation to life in America as an African, and “Purple Hibiscus” is a story of two families in postcolonial Nigeria. Start with “Purple Hibiscus.”
Muriel Barbery: France’s Muriel Barbery surprised herself when, encouraged by her husband, she published her first novel, “Une Gourmandise (Gourmet Rhapsody),” to critical acclaim. Six years later, she would follow with “L’élegance du Hérrison (The Elegance of the Hedgehog),” topping French sales for 30 consecutive weeks and winning a series of accolades. Start with “The Elegance of the Hedgehog,” which explores the discovery of beauty and meaning in a seemingly absurd life through wit, humor and tragedy.
Harper Lee: The enigmatic Harper Lee is widely known for what was – until 2015 – her only published novel: “To Kill a Mockingbird.” “Mockingbird” is seen as a pivotal work of American literature, emerging at a time when race was at the forefront of the American conscience (1960). Its sequel, “Go Set a Watchman,” which was actually a first draft of “Mockingbird,” returns to the scene of the first novel 20 years later and greatly nuances the depiction of the narrator’s father, the iconic Atticus Finch. Start with “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Emily Bronté: Although she remains one of the most famous authors in the English language, Emily Bronté only ever wrote one novel: “Wuthering Heights.” Widely regarded as the quintessential gothic romance novel, the work is a celebrated and controversial classic. Bronté’s sisters, Charlotte, and, to a lesser extent, Anne, are likewise revered for their contributions to literature.
Octavia Butler: Science-fiction writer Octavia Butler grew up in Pasadena, California, in the 1950s. At age 12, she became convinced that she could write better stories than the shows on television. Her short stories – “Bloodchild,” for example – are disturbing and revelatory. Butler is often concerned with exposing the dangers of ingrained hierarchies in society, especially race. Her “Patternist” and “Xenogenesis” series are favorites. Start with “Kindred.”
Zora Neale Hurston: Although she was a central figure of the Harlem Renaissance, Zora Neale Hurston’s work was largely ignored by literary critics outside the movement until the 1970s when American novelist and activist Alice Walker wrote an article on her work titled “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston.” An anthropologist as well as a writer, Hurston wrote many works of fiction and nonfiction concerned with the daily life and experiences of African-Americans. Her most famous work, “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” pays special attention to the experiences of African-American women. Start with “Their Eyes Were Watching God.”
Celeste Ng: When American novelist Celeste Ng was 10 years old, she moved with her family from Pittsburgh to Shaker Heights, Ohio, the setting of her most recent and widely known novel “Little Fires Everywhere.” Starring and executive produced by Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, the book now has its own Hulu miniseries adaptation. Ng’s work centers around family dynamics, and in “Little Fires Everywhere,” particularly those between mothers and their children. Start with “Little Fires Everywhere.”
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