Breaking Down Barriers- Women Authors Using Pen Names

I recently stumbled across this article from Mashable regarding the pen names of women authors who’ve had to change their names in order to get published. Seeing as how it is Women’s History Month,  I thought it would be interesting to see the history of the use of womenoverhurdlemale pen names by women  and how they are still being used today.   From Jane Austen who published simply under the name,  “A Lady, ” to the present, Nora Roberts as J.D. Robb; women have simply had to modify their name in order to get their works published and to establish credibility with literary critics.  Bloomsbury asked Joanne Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, to initialize her name so it would be more appealing to young boys.   Since she had no middle name, she borrowed her grandmother’s name, Kathleen.   After her enormous success with the series, she wrote, The Cuckoo’s Calling, and added another nom de plume, Robert Galbraith, mystery writer,  to separate herself as much as possible from her famous persona.

“In 1980, science fiction writer and editor Ben Bova told a group of women writers, “Neither as writers nor as readers have you raised the level of science fiction a notch. “  I’m sure that Margaret Atwood and Ursula Le Guin would have disagreed with his outrageous comment.  However there were science fiction authors who did  take male or unisexual names in order to get their works taken seriously.  Author Alice Sheldon wrote her speculative fiction under the name James Tiptree.  When her name was revealed it caused quite a stir.  Carolyn Janice Terry as CJ Terryh and Catherine Lucille Moore as CL  Moore also adopted more androgynous names to gain acceptance.

Conversely, there have been a few male authors who’ve adopted women pen names for various reasons.  Mohammed Moulessehoul, a high ranking Algerian military officer,  wrote The  Swallows of Kabul under the female pen name, Yasmina Khadra, to avoid military censorship.  There are also male romance writers who have adopted female pen names to gain women readers.

In the 21st century, is it possible to get past these sexist preconceived notions  in order to accept that good writers can write from any angle, male or female?  I certainly hope so.

Posted in C.J. Cherryh, C.L. Moore, fiction, James Tiptree, nom de plume, pen names, pseudonyms, science fiction, Women's History Month, Yasmin Khadra | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Toni Morrison on Censorship and the Power of the Written Word

burnthisbookPerhaps it is no accident that I happened to stumble upon Burn This Book edited by Morrison a few days before her birthday today.  Published in conjunction with the PEN American Center, the book is a collection of essays by famous authors, such as Updike and Rushdie, and  the meaning of censorship and the power of the written word.  Why write? is the question posed in the 11 essays in this slim powerful volume of work.  As Morrison states in her essay, Peril, “We all know nations that can be identified by the flight of writers from  their shores.  These are regimes  whose fear of unmonitored writing is justified because truth is trouble. ”   Written in 2009, Burn This Book is still relevant today  where the whole truth is often hidden from view. We are grateful to our writers, especially one as gifted as our beloved Toni Morrison, for as she writes ” A writer’s life and work are not a gift to mankind, they are its necessity.”

 

 

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Black History Month- Other titles of Interest

The Village Voice recently published an article on lesser known titles for Black History Month, other than the usual recommended classics.  Here are the titles we have available at Newburgh Free Library.  Take them out and give them a read.

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Posted in African American Fiction, black history month, books, fiction, jim crow, nonfiction, slavery | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Cold Weather Brings out the Thrill (er) in Me: A Review of The Girl on the Train

There is something about the winter that makes me read dark psychological suspenseful  books that keeps me on the edge of my seat.  I’ve just finished reading, The Girl on The Traingirlonthetrain by Paula Hawkins.   I remember hearing buzz about this book last spring at Book Expo and it certainly lived up to its hype.  Perhaps it is the dark grey winter days that makes it easier to be transported into these dark scenarios.

Similar to Gone Girl, Hawkins has created an unreliable main narrator, Rachel,  who keeps us on our toes and guessing throughout the novel.  Rachel, recently unemployed and frequently inebriated, is wallowing in the depths of despair over the recent loss of her marriage and job and has taking to keeping up the pretense of being employed as she rides the train every day as if she is going to work.  As the train slows down past the backs of a row of houses, Rachel becomes  a voyeur and lets her imagination run wild. She makes up names and imaginary lives for these characters she doesn’t know.  She becomes particularly enamored with a young couple who seem similar to her and her  ex-husband in happier times.  In her mind they are named “Jason and Jess”.  Imagine her surprise when one day as the train approaches the back of the row houses she sees Jess passionately kissing a man that is not her husband!  This sets Rachel into a tailspin especially since the next day, the front page of the newspaper is covered with a photo of  “Jess” who happens to have gone missing!  This book has everything you’d want in a thriller and kept me on my toes till the very end.  If you’re like me and love to curl up with a thriller when its cold and grey outside– give The Girl on The Train a read!

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Happy Birthday Pride & Prejudice

pride&prejudiceToday is  the 202th anniversary of the classic by Jane Austen. One of the great master of English literature,  Austen sold the copyright to Pride and Prejudice to Thomas Edgarton for  £110 but because of favorable reviews he quickly recouped his money and made  approximately £45o for just the first two editions!

While some have claimed Pride and Prejudice is simply a romantic comedy, Austen’s themes of marriage, wealth and commentary on the  class structure of  18th British society have made the novel revered and studied to this day. Whether you loved the book or not, it certainly has endured for a reason.  Is this your favorite Austen title?

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Finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Awards were Announced This Week

Since 1974, book critics, authors, literary bloggers and other members of the National Books Critics Circle have presented awards for the finest in literature published in the United States annually. While the winner will be announced in March,  the five finalists in the fiction and non-fiction categories   (click on a title to reserve) are listed below.  Who do you think deserves to win?

FICTION:

euphoria lila briefhistoryof7 onsuchafullsea unnecessarywoman

NONFICTION:

zhivagoaffair sixthextinction capitalin21st problemofslavery  deepdowndark

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The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton

When I was at Book Expo last year, I remember Deb Futter, Editor in Chief of Grand Central Publishing, talking about The Secret Wisdom of the Earth secretwisdomand how much she loved the manuscript and  wanted everyone to share in her enthusiasm for the book.  It quickly became a title that all her co-workers were talking about. There is nothing better than hearing about a good word of mouth book!  That got me intrigued and so out of all of the hundred or so galleys I received at BEA, this was the title I read first.  It didn’t have a fancy cover at the time, but the title grabbed me and with Deb’s recommendation I was quickly transported off into the world Scotton created.

First time author, Christopher Scotton, sets the tale of Secret Wisdom in the heart of  Appalachia coal mining country in the 1980’s.   The story revolves around 15 year old Kevin, who has been sent to visit his grandfather for the summer along with his grieving mother after tragedy has struck the family. I  quickly became enamored with the characters and this tale that entwines environmental issues with the moral dilemmas that come into play in this classic coming of age of story.    I lived and breathed this story as I was reading it and I hope you will too.   If you love a good coming of age story mixed with redemption and honest believable characters, you should put this book at the top of your to read pile.  I was so enamored with the book it will be my book discussion selection for February and we will be Skyping with the author.

Please give it a  read — it is a classic that will be in at the top of my best list in 2015 !

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Books for the Book Lover

A-reader-lives-a-thousand-lives-before-he-dies.-The-man-who-never-reads-lives-only-one.-George-R.-R.-MartinIf you’re a fellow book lover  and have some time off for the holidays and are always on the hunt for new titles tor peruse, you might appreciate this short list of books by and for fellow book lovers.  Some are fiction and others are not, but all of these titles share the common thread of the love of  reading.  With this list, I hope you find some new gems to read.  Best Wishes for a Happy New Year and I’ll be back to blogging in 2015!

       unneecessarywoman,jpg      storiedlifeofajfikry      republicofimagination   tenyearsinthetub    endofyourlifebookclub

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Happy Birthday to a Christmas Classic

christmascarol

A Christmas Carol turns 171 years old today

A perfect time to share Charles Dickens wonderful novella about the 3 ghosts who visit Scrooge and show him the true meaning of Christmas.  We have  Christmas Carol in DVD,  and  in several different book formats, including graphic novel.

Posted in A Christmas Carol, adaptations, Charles Dickens, classics, dvds, graphic novels, Scrooge | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A 21st Century Grinch

mancalledoveIf your favorite Christmas holiday classic is The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, you might want to give international bestseller, The Man Who Called Ove, a try. Written by Swedish author, Fredrick Backman, the novel starts off with the curmudgeonly Ove. spreading his unique style of grouchiness throughout his small neighborhood.  Everyone in his vicinity tries to avoid Ove and his daily routines and Ove tries to avoid them as well.  It seems the only person he talks to is his dead wife until a new family moves next door.  Their introduction to Ove is courtesy of crashing into Ove’s mailbox and soon the needy family charms its way into Ove’s bitter heart and into his life.    Although the novel starts bit slow in the beginning, stay with it and you will be smiling at the end of this delightful novel.

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