On women’s writing

This post is a bit different from what I normally write here, but I’ve been turning it over for awhile. I’ve been interested for some time now in the idea of women’s tradition, in many different areas. Teaching each other handicrafts, for instance, passing on knowledge gained from other women. Traditions of art, of thinking, of writing.

And this is where my thoughts have circled back to this blog. I’ve realized recently–most specifically after publishing my review of Uprooted–that I’m not doing a great job of tracing these traditions, the lineages and influences of writers on each other. In talking about Uprooted, I emphasized the fact that to me it felt both like a classic coming-of-age story, and fresh and original. This is true, but by rights I should have talked about the fact that the classic coming-of-age story I was referring to is rooted in the tradition of fairy tale retellings written by women. I should have talked about Robin McKinley and Patricia McKillip as part of the tradition that Novik is very clearly in conversation with.

Because, to speak bluntly and perhaps forcefully, our society tries so hard to convince us that women’s words & women’s stories don’t matter; that we exist in isolation, without history or tradition. The history of women writers–especially in certain genres–is so often ignored or erased. To me, the idea of a lineage of woman writers pushes back against that by tracing the history and evolution of stories, themes, ways of thinking.

So, I’m going to try to do a better job of showing when and where different works are in conversation with each other. This isn’t to say that all books by women operate in this way, or that they are all in agreement. And I don’t want to pretend that works copy each other; I’m don’t want to reduce a writer’s real originality in any way. But I do want to think about ways in which works touch each other, either in recognition or opposition. Because the fact is, I don’t believe that we are alone; I don’t believe that we have no history. And I want to learn to better reflect that.