|Flickr Credit: darkday|
For those just tuning in to my blog, I just finished a reading challenge. May, June, and July, I read books only by women (with one exception). I sought graphic novels, audiobooks, and eBooks that put a huge dent in my TBR. It was a great experience—these are some of the best things about it.
1. I Didn’t Miss Out on AnythingIf you fear I limited myself by reading “genres that women write,” don’t worry. Women write everything. Whether I wanted paranormal or dieselpunk, romance or speculative, autobiography or essays, I had plenty of options. Even if I looked for misogynistic judgery, I could (and did) find works that met the bill.
2. Women Know How to Write WomenNot all women write female characters well, but in general? They’ve got it down. I felt dissatisfied with the female characters when I experienced a higher intake of male voices—women were boring or perfect or nonexistent. I got a lot less of that this summer.
3. Women are ImperfectOn the one hand, duh. But hear me out: a challenge like this can appear to put women and their writing on a pedestal. But I still found problematic portrayals of marginalized people. I still read lackluster prose. I still found books I regretted reading. I don’t want to say that’s all okay—it shouldn’t be—but women are human. Authors screw up regardless of gender.
4. This Exercise Has its LimitsI made use of this summer to fix a problem in my reading habits. I enjoyed it—but just because I fixed one problem doesn’t mean I fixed them all. I’m disappointed that I didn’t dig into books with Muslim, Latina, or Native POVs, when I could and should have. I’ll have to seek those books out in the coming months, instead—I need to make room for their voices, too.
5. Priorities are EverythingI began thinking I would also seek out films to watch with female directors, just for kicks. “For kicks” is a phrase of silliness—since I didn’t make it a goal, I didn’t make a point of meeting it. I preferred to watch Psych and Supernatural. Even if I preferred a book by a male author, I prioritized thirty books that met certain criteria. I met or exceeded my goals on all counts. Priorities made the difference.
6. This is Something I Would Encourage Other People to DoSometimes this was a little tough, but mostly? I had a lot of fun. I got to read so many voices from a variety of backgrounds, and I’d do this exercise again. Maybe I’ll pick a marginalized group next time. Even if you don’t want to read women or do it for three months, I’d still encourage you to try focusing your reads on an area where you need to be more educated or compassionate. Reading makes that possible—go for it!
There’s this quote in A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf… “For books continue each other, in spite of our habit of judging them separately. And I must also consider her—this unknown woman—as the descendant of all those other women whose circumstances I have been glancing at and see what she inherits of their characteristics and restrictions.” In other words, women writers pass things on to one another. It creates a literary history and it creates new women writers, all of whom share a history of struggle, some of whom face greater struggles now and for the foreseeable future.
I like belonging to that. And I like knowing that I spent my summer inheriting those lessons.