11 November 2009

Homage to the Women Unbound Challenge


I won’t be participating (at least not officially) in the Women Unbound Challenge being hosted by Aarti at BookLust, Care at Care’s Online Bookclub and Eva at A Striped Armchair. I am trying to limit any book challenge participation in the next year to books that I already own. I have lots of books by and about women, but I didn’t feel like I had the right ones to really do the challenge justice. Over the years I have read a fair amount of what would be considered women’s studies texts, both fiction and non-fiction, that range from profound and enlightening to unsophisticated and solipsistic. And although, my TBR pile is full of books by and about women, just finding eight books that only sort of fit the bill just didn’t seem right to me.

From about the age of 13 all the way through my undergraduate days, my friends were almost exclusively female—a direct result of not being like the other boys. I was always a little ashamed and embarrassed that all my friends were girls. It wasn’t until I started college that I realized how ridiculous and wrong it was to be ashamed of my fabulous female friends. This was the end of the oppressively retrograde Reagan 80s and the women in my social sphere were decidedly feminist and had a huge influence on my personal and academic world view. (I remember plowing through The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood and feeling more than a little affinity with the protagonist.) In the years since then I have never really lost that sensibility and it has definitely influenced my reading.

As I looked through my TBR pile, I was hoping to find eight appropriate books so I could achieve the “suffragette” level in the challenge. (The word suffragette always makes me think of my trip to the Women’s Rights National Park in Seneca Falls, NY where Elizabeth Cady Stanton helped organize the first Women’s Rights Convention in 1848.) I found many books that would probably work for the challenge, but not having read them there was no way of knowing for sure. I was worried that many of them might fall into the category of being by a woman, but not being terribly relevant, or even antithetical, to the spirit of the challenge. Plus, in my mind Women’s Studies taken as a whole should be inclusive in terms of race and ethnicity. And I gotta admit, my TBR pile right now is pretty darn white.

So instead of being an official participant in the Women Unbound Challenge I pulled together a list of four literary pairs that may or may not turn out to be appropriate for the challenge. Each of the four pairs is based on a biographical work of a female author, each of whom, I think blazed some trails for women writers. And then I paired each bio with a work of fiction by the same author. In most cases the works of fiction aren’t necessarily the best representations of the author’s feminist proclivities. And in the case of Barbara Pym, her feminist proclivities are still up for debate. But, hey, it’s what I have in my TBR. In any case, here are my four literary pairings:

Willa Cather (pictured)
Non-Fiction: Willa Cather, The Emerging Voice by Sharon O’Brien
Fiction: Collected Stories

Fanny Trollope
Non-Fiction: The Life, Manners, And Travels of Fanny Trollope by Johanna Johnston
Fiction: Widow Barnaby

Edith Wharton
Non-Fiction: A Backward Glance (autobiography)
Fiction: The Glimpse of the Moon

Barbara Pym
Non-Fiction: A Lot to Ask, A Life of Barbara Pym by Hazel Holt
Fiction: Excellent Women

So what do you think? Is this a worthy list for shadowing the Women Unbound Challenge?

7 comments:

  1. your list is great-to me it is not so much feminists works as looking at what the works say from the view point of the challenge.

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  2. Your list looks brilliant. I considered this challenge but in the end it seemed a challenge to far and I didnt think that I had enough books of my own that could count as like you mentioned I am only doing challenges which can be done with what I own already. I think actually I may have enough but am gonna watch from the sidelines instead.

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  3. Great list! I also think that Women's Studies encompasses sexuality as well as race and ethnicity, which is why I added a couple of seminal pieces of lesbian literature on my list.

    I am also working from those books that I already have on my shelves or that I can borrow from the library (one that was already requested and any that I come across over the course of the challenge). I didn't consider Barbara Pym and wonder what I'll think of her in terms of the challenge when I read my first novel by her next week.

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  4. Mel U: I agree, but I still felt like the books availiable in my TBR didn't quite live up to the challenge.

    Pamela: Thanks for stopping by.

    Simon S: Maybe I am keeping myself on the sidelines in case I fail. It won't be an official failure.

    Paperback Reader: I don't think I have any Lesbians in my TBR. At least not any out Lesbians.

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  5. I think it is an awesome list and I very much enjoyed this post and learning more about you. Officially or unofficially, WELCOME to the challenge.

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  6. Care: Thanks for the welcome. I am glad you like the list.

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