To wrap up our celebration of Influential Female Authors throughout the centuries, we’re looking at the women who are currently rewriting the book world for the better. The 21st century is full of female authors who are creating stories that touch us all and tackle topics that need to be addressed. From domestic abuse to friendships and familial bonds, these seven women are paving the way for future authors to keep the light shining on topics that matter.
Arundhati Roy is an Indian author, actress, and political activist who is involved in environmental and human rights causes. Born Suzanna Arundhati Roy, Roy dreamed early on of being a writer. Her debut novel, The God of Small Things (1997) won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1998 and became the biggest best-selling book by a non-expatriate Indian author.
Following the success of Small Things, Roy wrote a number of politically-oriented nonfiction works. A lot of her work is targeted towards political and societal problems faced in her homeland. In her first novel in 20 years, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (2017), Roy explores contemporary India by blending personal stories with topical issues.
Margaret Atwood is many things, but boring isn’t one of them. She’s a poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, teacher, and environmental activist. Again, she’s the opposite of boring. Atwood is best known for her novel, The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), where women are forced into rigid social roles following the rise of a totalitarian regime. The success of this book spawned an award-winning series adaptation on Hulu and a sequel novel in 2019.
Atwood is also an accomplished poet and has won numerous awards for her works, including a Governor General’s Award. Many of her poems are inspired by myths and fairy tales, which she had been interested in at an early age. She’s best known for her feminist perspective, something we can all appreciate.
Though her list of published works is much shorter than others listed in this article, Sally Rooney’s work is no doubt impactful and important to the literary world. Known for her award-winning novel Normal People (2018), Rooney’s novels are incredibly grounded and center around normal people (no pun intended) with normal problems.
I know, I know, that sounds really vague and generic. You’re probably thinking, “Well yeah, a lot of authors write stories about everyday problems. What’s the big deal?” Great question, random reader! Rooney’s stories dive into complicated relationships between friends and families, and explore those complexities in great detail. At times her stories are heart-wrenching, and at other times, heart-warming. No matter which book you read, Rooney is most definitely going to take you on an emotional roller coaster.
There’s an air of mystery around Elena Ferrante, because no one knows the true identity of the author. The name “Elena Ferrante” is a pseudonym used by the otherwise unknown author. Though many have theorized, Ferrante had kept an air of mystery around her since her debut in 1992. Ferrante argues “books, once they are written, have no need of their authors,” and anonymity is a precondition of her work.
Ferrante’s popularity started in Italy but has since bled to the entire world. Translated into numerous languages, her novels are appreciated by all. Her work has even been adapted into multiple film and television adaptations. HBO co-produces an Italian-language miniseries of My Brilliant Friend, and The Lost Daughter was adapted to film in 2021.
Louise Erdrich’s novels and children’s books shine a light on her Native American heritage by featuring Native American characters and settings that are underrepresented in today’s media and literature. As the daughter of a Chippewa Indian mother and German-American father, Erdrich explores Native American and German, Polish, and Scandinavian themes in her works.
Erdrich’s novels explore more than just Native American heritage- they discuss universal questions of identity and the meaning of life. She uses her personal experiences with understanding her heritage and translates it into her books, creating a story that relates to all readers with Native American heritage.
Colleen Hoover holds a special place in my heart and is included in this list of influential female authors of the 21st century because of one major reason. Her books emotionally destroy you, and I mean that in the best way possible. Hoover’s It Ends With Us (2016) holds the coveted, renowned title of being the first book to make me cry. And not like single-teardrop-down-the-face crying. I’m talking have-to-close-the-book-and-take-a-deep-breath-but-scared-to-take-too-deep-of-a-breath-because-I-might-start-ugly-sobbing type of crying. So, thanks for that, Colleen.
But in all seriousness, Colleen Hoover’s books, like Sally Rooney’s, deal with human problems. They’re incredibly heartfelt and real. It Ends With Us deals with the complexity of emotions that comes with domestic abuse. If you don’t want to be put through the emotional wringer, her novel Verity (2018) will keep you up at night asking questions long after you’ve read the final page.
Last but not least is Alice Walker. We can’t say enough about her. For an in-depth look at her life and legacy, check out our recent article on her. For now though, I’ll keep this as short and sweet as I can.
Alice Walker is more than just an author. She’s an activist and a legend. Her most famous novel, The Color Purple (1982), highlights the power of strength and independence in black women. The Color Purple was turned into an Oscar-nominated film in 1985, a Broadway musical in 2005, and will get a second film adaptation in 2023.
Walker’s poetry collections give readers a look at her innermost thoughts during the Civil Rights movement, and her novels demonstrate and emphasize the racial oppression African American citizens face in America. She’s inspired people around the world and continues to be an advocate for for equal rights.