Culture December 22, 2016
Women have been writing literature since the invention of the written language. They gave us the first identified author (Enheduanna of Akkad, a Sumerian high priestess), the first English-language autobiography (Margery Kempe) and even invented new genres (Mary Shelley).
Any woman who writes today owes a debt to the women who laid down the path before us. To show how far we’ve come since the days of our ancient writing sisters, here’s a look at the up-and-coming women writers storming the literary world today.
Chang’s debut novel, “The Wangs vs. the World” was released earlier this year. Her novel is about a once-wealthy Chinese immigrant family as they make their final family road trip across the United States. According to author J. Ryan Stradal, “Chang’s debut novel is a heartbreaking, hilarious and honest American epic: a road trip that’s an escape from our parents’ American dream, toward an unknown destination that’s both more vulnerable and hopeful.”
Before she sat down to write her first novel, Chang was a staff member for Goodreads, the largest book consolidation site on the Internet.
“Behold the Dreamers,” Mbue’s first novel, debuted in August of this year. A Cameroon native, Mbue has lived in New York City for the past decade. Her novel explores what it’s like living as an immigrant in Harlem and trying to find your footing a new world.
“‘Behold the Dreamers’ is a remarkable debut,” says NPR. “Mbue is a wonderful writer with an uncanny ear for dialogue — there are no false notes here, no narrative shortcuts, and certainly no manufactured happy endings. It’s a novel that depicts a country both blessed and doomed, on top of the world, but always at risk of losing its balance. It is, in other words, quintessentially American.”
In 2013 Catton published her second novel, “The Luminaries,” which won the Booker Man Prize for the year, making her the youngest author to win at age 28. The Guardian says of “The Luminaries,” “As in her first novel, Catton manages her multiple storylines with deft assurance, winding up a skein of a mystery that’s rich with secrets, sex and opium, a doomed love affair, murder and double dealing.”
While the book was published three years ago, the literary world is still waiting to see what she will do next.
Homes is gaining a reputation for her dark comedy humor and extreme situations that take place in her novels and short stories. She has currently written three novels, “In a Country of Mothers,” “Music for Torching” and “This Book Will Save Your Life.”
Reviewing “The Book Will Save Your Life,” the New York Times says, “Homes spends the imaginative assets that she’s conserved by hiring a cast of nonunion cut-out characters to conceive and mount the tricky scenarios that bring them into manic collision.”
In 2013 Munro won the Nobel Prize for Literature. She is well known for her shocking short stories about convoluted relationships taking place in small towns. She has been hailed as a “master of contemporary short story” and was the 13th woman to win the award.
According to the Nobel Prize website, “The underlying themes of her work are often relationship problems and moral conflicts. The relationship between memory and reality is another recurring theme she uses to create tension. With subtle means, she is able to demonstrate the impact that seemingly trivial events can have on a person’s life.”
Smith is an English novelist, essayist and short story writer who has published five novels. Her latest novel, “Swing Time” was published earlier this year to wide critical acclaim.
In fact, “Swing Time” was regarded by one writer for The Guardian as Smith’s “finest novel.” Taiye Selasi says, “The narrator’s journey, from gritty estate to glittering globe and back again, is the juicy stuff of which film adaptations are made … Cinematic as it is, the novel does what only literature can and what only great literature will: forces us to assess the very vocabulary with which we speak of human experience.”
Gysasi is a Ghanan-born, Alabaman-raised writer that is being hailed as the next Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Her first novel “Homecoming” was released this year and examines the history of slavery over eight generations and two countries.
Gysasi told TIME that her “closest friends” as a child were books. “Very quickly for me reading and writing went hand in hand, though I know that’s not true for all children who are big readers,” she says.
These seven authors have been and will continue to make waves in the literary world. Every time a new novel or short story collection is released, our ancient literary sisters are slowly repaid for the work they did to get us where we are today.
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