March is Women's History Month, and with events like International Women's Day, there are lots of fantastic celebration of ladies happening all month. But our attitude — why only celebrate once a year? Here's a start: 10 essential female writers that will keep you inspired and proud all year long.
The Edible Woman, The Handmaid’s Tale, Cat’s Eye — Atwood’s novels are consistently moving and innovative. For a good introduction to her work, check out The Handmaid’s Tale, an ultra-affecting feminist dystopian novel that will stick with you long after you’ve finished it.
As one of the most prolific writers and activists in recent memory, you may have come across Lorde’s memoir Zami (called a biomythography) or some of her powerful poems in college. Her writing is honest and gut-wrenching, and her essays on feminist theory and the intersection of race and gender are an excellent primer for any woman interested in feminism.
Though most of Tartt’s characters aren’t female, her writing is the perfect “See?” to any ignorant critics of women’s literature; dealing heavily in death and mystery, Tartt's writing is solemn and penetrating. Her thrilling, college-set The Secret History is guaranteed to be unlike anything you've read before, as addictive as it is fascinating. Fans of Bret Easton Ellis might already be familiar with History's main characters, who are briefly alluded to in Ellis's The Rules of Attraction. (He and Tartt went to college together.) The Goldfinch is Tartt's most recent opus.
Maxine Hong Kingston
One of the most prominent Chinese-American authors, Kingston’s Woman Warrior is a stunning memoir and an original combination of personal history and Chinese folklore. Her work — other books include Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book and China Men — focuses on identity and self-acceptance, and will resonate with anyone who feels torn between cultures.
Bechdel is a feminist lesbian cartoonist whose graphic memoirs Fun Home and Are You My Mother? are equal parts smart, funny and poignant. Bonus: she came up with, duh, The Bechdel Test, an easy way of measuring how women in film are faring. (If a movie has at least two women with names that talk to each other about something besides a man, it passes the test; you’ll be shocked when you realize how few do.)
Sarah Shun-lien Byun
Byum is a deliberate writer, capable of capturing women from all sorts of angles. In Ms. Hempel Chronicles, Byum describes the uneasiness that a 20-something has with, well, being a 20-something. In the strange and gorgeous Madeleine is Sleeping, she explores both the erotic and grotesque nature of bodies, in short, poetic vignettes that blur the line between a young girl’s dreams and the real world spinning around her.
Moore is a master of the short story and a creator of truly multi-dimensional women. You won’t be able to stop yourself from dog-earring the pages of her many, many books, which are packed with on the nose, funny one-liners you wish you’d thought of first.
Her 30 years and counting writer’s block is well-known, so you might recognize Lebowitz less from her work and more from the pages of Vanity Fair magazine, where you can almost always find pictures of her in her trademark suits, or from Law & Order, where she has occasionally guested as a judge. The books she wrote prior to her pause, though, are witty, irreverent, and borderline brilliant. Lebowitz has an opinion on everything, and her dry observations are a must read for any funny women with something to say.
Rich’s poems and essay collections — with subjects as varied as Emily Dickinson, Jewish feminism, and love — are both creatively beautiful and deeply thought provoking. Her epic “Twenty One Love Poems” shows off Rich’s true artistry, and her essays (“Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” is a great one to start with) are fundamental for anyone interested in identity politics or feminist theory.
Shange’s novels, poetry, and plays are genre bending (some of her books include recipes, and her groundbreaking play, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide when the Rainbow Is Enuf, is referred to as a choreopoem, combining dance with poetry) and their success hinges on her audience’s emotional engagement. Engaging readers is no issue for Shange, though; she writes honestly about the black female experience, using colloquialisms to bring us into her world.