This year has not been kind to America, and many people are feeling hurt, lost, and beaten down by current events. When my heart is distressed and my soul is in turmoil, I turn to books for comfort — particularly books by female authors about pain and healing. Through their words, these remarkable women exposed the struggles they faced, but they also showed us how to heal and move on from unimaginable pain and suffering. Reading these women's writing is vital and fulfilling — a way of promoting empathy and sharing support across the limitations of time and space.
This, for me, is one of the real impacts of literature and expression: the ability to share even the most overwhelming of our emotions, the hardest parts of our lives. This is why literature is such a healing entity in itself. Literature is connection and it is power — a way to take agency over any circumstance.
By sharing and exploring their experiences of pain and healing, these incredible female authors have brought us closer together and closer to ourselves. And most importantly, their work is a testament to the fact that no matter how hopeless things seem, we can always rise.
1. Maya Angelou
From her poetry to her prose, it only takes a moment with Maya Angelou's work to realize how strong and special she is. In her famous autobiography I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings , she recalls overcoming racism, violence, and other hardships from her childhood onward.
2. Audre Lorde
Through her poetry, biomythogrophy Zami: A New Spelling of My Name , and her amazing essays, Audre Lorde brilliantly transformed pain into action. Her work ought to be required reading.
3. Sylvia Plath
Most people know The Bell Jar Sylvia Plath author by her suicide. But her writings are a testament to experiencing, living with, and overcoming pain — one day at a time.
4. Marjane Satrapi
In her brilliant autobiographical graphic novels, Persepolis , Satrapi recounts growing up in Iran during a team of terror, fear, and danger. Her experiences and the activism they inspired are proof that healing is possible.
5. Alison Bechdel
Alison Bechdel's classic graphic novel Fun Home is all about grief and healing. As Bechdel describes her late father (who committed suicide), her realization that he was homosexual, and her own identity and relationship to him, she takes you along on an intimate journey you won't ever forget.
6. Arundhati Roy
Roy's beautiful novel The God of Small Things is all about holding onto and recovering from painful experiences. In her fiction and nonfiction, Roy is an advocate for the voiceless and truly expressive about the hardships of this world.
7. Natasha Trethewey
The former Poet Laureate of the United States beautifully encapsulates pain and healing, with every one of her poems reaching you in the most special places. From personal loss to racial legacy to the ways they're intertwined, Trethewey's writing is breathtaking and important.
8. Elizabeth Gilbert
Best known for her book Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert's journey to discover herself despite the struggles of her life is one that has inspired millions of women across the globe. It just takes a moment of watching Gilbert's TED talks or reading her most recent book, Big Magic, to feel yourself uplifted.
9. Louise Erdrich
National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich's novels are filled with trauma and grief, and characters that must find a way to handle their pain. From The Round House to her most recent book, LaRose, Erdrich's writing is beautiful, intimate, and pure.