Because it’s spring break and I’m furiously trying to get a paper ready for the Population Association of America meetings in May (but paper due on Monday), I haven’t been blogging so much about economics. But I feel like writing about books today, so here goes.
BuzzFeed published a listicle of strong female characters in literature we wanted to be when we were growing up. Immediately, I break into a smile because I list many of the same characters as my childhood idols, but the joy dissipates quickly as I remember that so many of those strong women characters faded from my reading list as I became a more advanced reader. A conversation with friends over dinner a few months ago resulted in each of us listing books that were important to us or had inspired us. Each of us came up with books written by women or that had strong women characters that we had read when we were younger, but as we accelerated through our childhoods and into adulthood, Blume and L’Engle turned into Steinbeck and Nabokov. Kids’ books turned into serious literature (I wish I had another font and could make a frowny face to go along with those words), and the women kind of fell off the list.
It’s not that I don’t love Steinbeck and Nabokov, I do, passionately. But I wish that I had more books from the intervening period between then and now to say, yes, that one really shaped my life or inspired me to do something in particular or put me on a path to who I was now. Although, with enough thinking, I just came up with The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, which in large part pushed me to study Spanish. I’ll take it, but I want more.
And I’m getting more.
One of the best parts of my decision to read only female authors in 2014 has been that everyone has a good book to recommend to me. At least among readers, most everyone I know has a book or writer that was totally unknown to me before and now makes up part of the growing list of books I want to read. My neighbor is constantly sending me texts with new books. I get random emails from friends with lists. Days after we’ve talked about it, someone will approach me with another idea. There are lots of great books by women, we’ve just somehow managed to push them down and ignore them in the face of all the other options. Some of the talk around reading women centered on this idea that focusing on it only magnified the problem. For me, focusing on the gender of the writers I’m reading and the voices I’m letting into my head has opened up this incredible fountain of books. I can’t wait to dive into the next one.
Happy Spring Break. And Happy (almost) First Day of Spring!