Category: Female Authors

Birthday Girl’s Best Reads!

Michelle Obama is the queen we all need daily advice from. But since she’s sadly not on our speed dials, we will have to draw as much influence and inspiration from her recommended book list. For her birthday, we have put together a number of books this mega powerhouse of a lady thinks we should read. Make sure you snag these books as fast as possible if they aren’t already in your bookshelf!

 

1. an american marriage by tayari jones

image via amazon

Similar to BecomingAn American Marriage discusses race, gender roles, and of course, love. A newly married couple, Celestial and Roy, find their lives turned upside down when he is convicted of a crime he did not commit. Left on her own while Roy starts a 12-year prison sentence, Celestial drifts away from him, emotionally. So what will happen to their marriage now?

 

 

2. the grapes of wrath by john steinbeck

image via abe books

Published in 1939, this story is set against the backdrop of economic depression and ecological hardship, and has remained hugely popular to this day, and is a staple in Michelle’s list. It follows the fortunes of a family as they travel the iconic Route 66 from Oklahoma to California in search of a better life.

 

3. song of solomon by toni morrison

image via amazon

It’s no secret that Michelle is a Toni Morrison fan, because back in 2011, during Take Your Child to Work Day, Obama noted Song of Solomon was the book that made her love reading. Song of Solomon is a coming of age story that discusses, in a literal and figurative sense, what it means to fly. The book has stirred up quite some controversy as it confronts many topics some have found uncomfortable, including racism, murder, and abusive relationships.

 

 

4. white teeth by zadie smith

image via amazon

“I love the way the story weaves together so many complex and powerful forces that affect our lives and our relationships – family and parenting, religion and politics, and so much more. Plus, it’s just plain funny. I love books that make me laugh every now and then.”, says Michelle.

 

5. educated by tara westover

image via amazon

Michelle says: “It’s an engrossing read, a fresh perspective on the power of an education, and it’s also a testament to the way grit and resilience can shape our lives. Tara’s upbringing was so different from my own, but learning about her world gave me insight into lives and experiences that weren’t a part of my own journey.”

 

 

6. conversations with myself by nelson mandela

image via by amazon

“I like to flip through it from time to time because it always seems to give me an extra boost when I need it. I cherish this both because it was signed by him and because he gave it to me as a gift when my family visited his home in 2011.” says Michelle.

 

 

Michelle Obama is the inspirational spirit animal everyone needs, and although she may not be the First Lady anymore, her book list is a portrayal of her vision and guidance, and we are thrilled to be able to share it with everyone.

 

featured image via book riot


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More Than A First Lady

One of the most influential ladies in the US, Michelle Obama, is celebrating another year of life. As former first lady, Mrs. Obama has shown nothing but kindness and has encouraged young women to believe in their futures. She is an inspiration to many and will always be one of the best first lady’s this country has ever seen.

Michelle Obama, formerly known as Michelle LaVaughn Robinson, was born January 17, 1964, to parents Fraser and Marian Robinson. Michelle and her older brother Craig were often mistaken to be twins as they weren’t that far apart in age. The Robinson’s lived in the South Side of Chicago, where both Craig and Michelle shared a room together separated by a sheet. Both children learned to read at home by the age of four, acquiring the knowledge they needed to skip second grade.

Image Via Pinterest

By sixth grade, Michelle started to create a name for herself. Her smarts gained her access to an accelerated program at school. There, she was able to learn French and complete accelerated courses in Biology. As a gifted student, she was able to attend one of the top gifted schools in Chicago, Whitney M. Young High School, where she graduated in 1981.

 

 

Following her brother’s footsteps, Michelle was accepted into Princeton University, where she graduated cum laude in 1985 with a B.A. in Sociology. From there, Michelle went on to study law at Harvard Law School, receiving her JD degree.

Image Via PBS

While working at her first job as a lawyer in Chicago, Michelle met Barack, who was a summer intern. Conveniently enough, Barack was assigned to Michelle as his adviser. After wooing her with his charm, Barack finally was able to gain the interest of Michelle. Within two years of dating, Barack proposed. The two were “married at Trinity United Church of Christ on October 3, 1992.”

 

 

In 1991, Michelle changed her career as a lawyer and went on to further her career in the public service field, working as an assistant to Mayor Richard Daley. This is no surprise, as Michelle focused on social issues such as poverty, healthy living and the value of education. During Barack Obama’s presidency, from 2008-2016, Michelle continued to inspire others by giving speeches of great magnitudes in support of the issues she believes in.

Image Via Amazon

In 2018, Michelle wrote the book Becoming, going back to her “roots and how a girl from the South Side found her voice. I hope my journey inspires readers to find the courage to become whoever they aspire to be.”

Later, in that year, Michelle and Barack came together and signed a deal with Netflix to produce series and films. This deal resulted in the August 2019 release of American Factory.

Despite being the former first lady, Michelle has continued to solidify her place in the world and is still loved by many. Happy Birthday, Michelle and keep being you.

 

Featured Image Via Variety

 


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The Academy’s Little problem with Women

Greta Gerwig’s adaption of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women hit screens everywhere in December of last year. Three weeks on, it seems the film is headed for total success. With wide acclaim and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 95%, it’s unsurprising that The Academy has been paying attention, and it’s clear they LOVE it, nominating Little Women for six Oscars, including best picture and best actress. This comes as a welcome result considering the movie’s lack of appearance in the Golden Globe‘s best picture category.

 

image via refinery29

Sadly, unlike 2018, Greta Gerwig was not among the list of best directors, a list that was problematically entirely male. This highlights a bigger problem in Hollywood’s reportedly sexist culture. Greta Gerwig scripted an incredible adaption of a classic book, pulled together her powerhouse of a cast and kept Alcott’s core messages throughout. Some would argue that she deserves an award for bringing Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet together on screen again alone – but that might just be me. Despite all of this, she was snubbed when the nominations were released earlier this week. If Greta Gerwig couldn’t make the cut, it begs the question of what criteria is being considered.

 

image via statista

When Louisa May Alcott penned Little Women, the rebellious and enduring nature of the March sisters is part of what made the novel so brilliant and Greta Gerwig is no stranger to rebellion nor endurance, creating and existing as she does in a male-dominated film environment. It’s not all doom and patriarchal gloom, though. In speaking to Vanity Fair, the producer of the film, Amy Pascal, pointed out that Little Women was the “third movie in the history of the Academy that has been nominated [for best picture] that has been written, directed, and produced by women.” That, in and of itself, is proof that Hollywood’s problems (much like our own) may lessen with age. 

 

 

One of the core messages in Little Women, particularly in the movie, is the importance of writing, reading, and learning (oh my!). Spoilers are incoming for those of you fortunate enough not to know this!! When Beth gets sick, her illness is something that Jo hopes to aid with fresh sea air and a good story. Tragically, the plot alone is not enough to save Beth but the stories Jo writes for her are a comfort in her time of need. I think we can all agree that the comfort of a favorite story is no small thing and with Little Women being that favorite for so many people, the novel and film are self-fulfilling. Gerwig credits Little Women for giving her the inspiration to write and create, the film a passion project that no Oscar could ever overshadow.

 

moe’s book club via tumblr

Despite the gender politics, the movie looks set to surpass box office records and hopefully take home some, if not all, its prospective awards at the Oscars. Gerwig may not have a directorial nomination to celebrate, but the film has the best picture prospects alongside potential accolades for Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh.

As Jo put it herself: “Women, they have minds, and they have souls as well as just hearts, and they’ve got ambition, and they’ve got talent, as well as just beauty”. Academy, make a note.

 

 

Featured Image Via Britannica


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Party at Wildfell Hall – BYOB

Party at wildfell hall

Ladies, lace up your corsets, leave your terrible husbands at home and get ready to party like it’s 1820. That’s right, today is Anne Brontë’s birthday and if there was ever an excuse to celebrate Anne and her achievements, her 200th birthday is definitely it.

Far from the ‘other Brontë’, Anne left an eternal mark on classic English literature. Under her pseudonym Acton Bell, she published a wide range of poems before her two novels Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. She has been widely acclaimed as a feminist author, having refused to write through the romantic lens that her sisters, Emily and Charlotte, preferred. Anne’s conviction in her own beliefs cost her a lot of readership and popularity at the time but today she is renowned and celebrated for exactly that.

Image via Britannica

If you’re looking for a way to celebrate Anne’s big day, there are actual events happening that you can attend. In Bradford, West Yorkshire, the Brontë Parsonage Museum is hosting a bicentenary party, full of good food, crafting and poetry. In Sydney, Australia, Cate Whittaker will be giving a reading at the Stanton library. Bonus points if you dress up.

You could even throw your own party. Anne Brontë was a big believer in going her own way so the party theme would be totally up to you. Gather your troupe of talented sisters, brew some tea and discuss how you’re going to diverge from social mores – it’s what Anne would want.

Image via bust

 

Sadly, Anne died in May 1849, at the age of 29. Like many young people at the time, she died of tuberculosis. Despite the fact that she is often cited as the ‘least popular Brontë sister’, her legacy has taken on a posthumous new life.

Happy Birthday, Anne. There are many things to celebrate today; Anne’s body of work, her fierce spirit and the amazing talent that was bred and nurtured in the Brontë home. Anne’s last words are reported as being “Take courage, Charlotte, take courage” and if that isn’t the energy to take with you into 2020, we don’t know what is.

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The Bell Jar’s Influence: Anniversary Edition

The first line in The Bell Jar is a hook: “It was a… sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.” The person speaking is Esther Greenwood, a smart, straight-A, dark-humored and, as the story goes on, depressed protagonist.

The book was published in London on January 14th, 1963 under a pseudonym Victoria Lucas, one month before the actual author, Sylvia Plath, committed suicide. People had to wait almost a decade for its publication in The United States. It is the only novel Plath ever wrote.

image via vintag.es

The story itself is a coming of age tale about a college girl who is figuring out what she wants and who she wants to be. She wins a contest to write for a “girl’s” magazine called Ladies’ Day in New York. She takes the opportunity and moves to New York for the summer along with a group of other young women, and they all live in a hotel/dormitory called the Amazon. This is where the book begins. The experience is less than Esther expected it to be. Her editors give her uninspiring pep talks, and her friends lead her into dangerous situations where she is almost, at one point, raped. She feels lonely most of the time. Upon getting stuck in a room where one of her friends, Doreen, is getting close with Lenny Shepherd, a man they met by happenstance one night on the town, Esther says:

“There’s something demoralizing about watching two people get more and more crazy about each other, especially when you are the only extra person in the room. It’s like watching Paris from an express caboose heading in the opposite direction – every second the city gets smaller and smaller, only you feel it’s really you getting smaller and smaller and lonelier and lonelier, rushing away from all those lights and that excitement at about a million miles an hour.”

It is with similes like this one where we get a deep look into Esther’s intelligence and ability to discern the truth about what it means to be young and still forging your identity.

 

A lot of the novel is about forging identity, but Esther’s identity is so tied up with her depression that she has trouble separating the one from the other. After New York, she heads back home to Boston and spirals downward until she finds a crawlspace to hide in, and tries to commit suicide. This lands her in a sanitarium. She is eventually sent to a private hospital in the countryside paid for by the woman who sponsored her scholarship, Philomena Guinea. It is there where Esther is really attended to for her illness. She is given insulin, analysis, freedom to go into town with improvement in mood, and is treated with electric shock therapy; all of it leads her back to wellness. How do we know she’s well? She says, just before her dismissal, “There ought, I thought, to be a ritual for being born twice – patched, retreaded and approved for the road.”

This novel also gave Sylvia Plath a way to confront sexism and convention. Throughout the pages, Esther mentions how many times her mother has at one point told her to learn shorthand. “The trouble was, I hated the idea of serving men in any way. I wanted to dictate my own thrilling letters.” Esther doesn’t know how to cook, either. She doesn’t know how to dance. She can’t sing a note. “The one thing I was good at was winning scholarships and prizes…” In other words, Esther succeeds at competing with men.

image via sylviaplathinfo.blogspot.com

Plath’s writing style can be interpreted as dark, but also as darkly comic, elegiac, honest, and nostalgic. “When I was nineteen, pureness was the great issue.” This is both a joke and an admittance. After Esther finds out Buddy Willard, her boyfriend, has already had sex, she is filled with resentment over the hypocrisy he embodies but also feels a competitive edge. She rejects his proposal. He is a fraud in her eyes now, and it brings her a step closer to knowing something about herself: she cannot succumb to promises of chastity until marriage. Esther ends up losing her virginity to some guy named Irwin she meets on the steps of the Harvard Library. It leads to a slight hemorrhaging mishap that lands her in the Emergency room; what she loses in blood she gains in experience and independence. She is even fitted for a diaphragm with the encouragement of her female doctor. “I was my own woman.”

 

Esther also ponders a life of wifely duties with children and husband as her primary purpose in life and she grows deeply afraid. “I knew that in spite of all the roses and kisses and restaurant dinners a man showered a woman before he married her, what he secretly wanted when the wedding service ended was for her to flatten out underneath his feet like Mrs. Willard’s kitchen mat.”  While this characterization of family life may be exaggerated, Plath is pointing out the inherent gender inequality and unfair expectations society has for women.

Image via Lagan Online

The bell jar itself symbolizes Esther’s mental illness in all its stifling, alienating inescapability: ”…wherever I sat—on the deck of a ship or a street café in Paris or Bangkok—I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.” The bell jar warps reality, but there isn’t much difference, at times, between the distortion and the truth, as Esther discovers. On the day she is due to leave the hospital, Belsize, where she lived during her hospital stay, she wonders “what was there about us, in Belsize, so different from the girls playing bridge and gossiping and studying in the college to which I would return? Those girls, too, sat under bell jars of a sort.”n

If you’re curious as to how closely this novel relates back to Sylvia Plath, she did indeed have a guest editorship at a magazine called Mademoiselle. Philomena Guinea is based on a real woman, her literary patron named Olivia Higgins Prout, and Plath did try to commit suicide, and was sent to a hospital as a result. She even had Electroconvulsive Therapy just like Esther.

 

In 1979, there was a film adaptation starring Marilyn Hassett and Julie Harris. It did not do well with audiences or critics. There is a Showtime tv series (originally slated to be a film) starring Dakota Fanning based on the book supposedly in the works.

image via storenvy

The response to the book was positive, but Sylvia’s mother didn’t want it to be published in the United States because of the comparisons people made between Esther’s family and her own. It finally made it here in 1971, and fans did hyper-focus on the autobiographical similarities, though the NY Times gave it a positive review. The New Yorker’s review was mixed. In the end, it became one of the most influential novels of the 20th century.

Featured image via Deskgram


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