These Feminist Classic Novels Are Getting A Makeover — & You'll Want Them All
Random House's classics imprint, the Modern Library, launching a new series called Modern Library Torchbearers that features classic books by women. Six titles will be released this spring.
First founded as a publishing house in 1917, the Modern Library was the original home of its subsidiary, Random House. Now an imprint under the same publisher, the Modern Library has become synonymous with the greatest works of the Western canon. The canon often overlooks and excludes books by women and people of color, however — a problem that the Modern Library Torchbearers series seeks to rectify.
A new series of woman-authored classics, Modern Library Torchbearers will kick off publication on May 21 with American Indian Stories by Zitkála-Sá, The Heads of Cerberus by Francis Stevens, and Passing by Nella Larsen. An additional trio of texts — The Awakening by Kate Chopin, Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and Villette by Charlotte Brontë — are slated for a June 18 release. Random House also lists three other titles — The Transformation of Philip Jettan by Georgette Heyer, Nada by Carmen Laforet, and Love, Anger, Madness: A Haitian Triptych by Marie Vieux-Chauvet — as Modern Library Torchbearers on its website, but only Heyer's novel has a new release date (Sep. 10).
All six books feature an all-new cover designed by a woman artist. Check out the first six Modern Library Torchbearers below:
'American Indian Stories' by Zitkála-Sá, with an introduction by Layli Long Soldier
First published in 1921, Zitkála-Sá's American Indian Stories combines stories from the author's childhood on the Yankton Indian Reservation and in missionary schools with allegorical tales and essays. The Modern Library Torchbearers edition contains an introduction by Whereas poet Layli Long Soldier.
'The Heads of Cerberus' by Francis Stevens, with an introduction by Naomi Alderman
This mid-century science-fiction novel follows three friends who find themselves catapulted 200 years into the future after being exposed to an unknown powder. In 2118 Philadelphia, Viola, Robert, and Terry are forced to participate in a state-sanctioned fight to the death, and they'll have to stick together if they want to escape this brave new world. This new edition of The Heads of Cerberus contains an introduction by The Power author Naomi Alderman.
'Passing' by Nella Larsen, with an introduction by Kaitlyn Greenidge
Nella Larsen's classic novel of race and class, Passing centers on two mixed-race women, Clare and Irene, who grew up together as children. By the time they reconnect as adults, both women are married, but Clare has married a white racist who does not know anything about her heritage, and she now passes for white in his community. The Modern Library Torchbearers edition of Passing includes an introduction by We Love You, Charlie Freeman author Kaitlyn Greenidge.
'The Awakening' by Kate Chopin, with an introduction by Carmen Maria Machado
A wife and mother of two, Edna Pontellier becomes fed up with her life and seeks greater independence in this short novel. A feminist masterpiece, The Awakening now includes an introduction by Her Body and Other Parties author Carmen Maria Machado.
'Lady Audley’s Secret' by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, with an introduction by Flynn Berry
The story of a sweet, young woman who married well, only to be revealed as an impostor, Lady Audley's Secret is an unputdownable classic that has been overlooked in the 150 years since it was first published. This new edition features an introduction from A Double Life author Flynn Berry.
'Villette' by Charlotte Brontë, with an introduction by Weike Wang
Lesser known than Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë's Villette tells the story of Lucy Snowe, a young schoolteacher who moves to the titular city to work at a school for girls. The Modern Library Torchbearers edition of Villette includes an introduction from Chemistry author Weike Wang.