Issues

24 Authors Reflect on This Moment in Women’s History

Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

March is Women’s History Month, and in the U.S. in 2018, the month bears particular significance. Last year’s Women’s March counted at least 3 million attendees in the U.S. alone, and this year’s #MeToo movement has sparked women of all stripes to come forth and tell their stories in voices loud and clear. 2016-2018 may be the era of perpetual metaphorical dumpster fires, but it has also been a time of coming together, particularly on the part of women.

In honor of this Women’s History Month, we asked authors to reflect on this particular moment in women’s history. What we received from authors was in tandem with what we’ve seen from women across the nation during these trying times—an outpouring of thoughtful reflection on how far we’ve come as a nation, and hope for how far we will continue to go.

  • The cover of the book Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card

    Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card

    “November 8th, 2016 was a turning point for women in the United States. It was a much-needed wake-up call. Something was unleashed in us: sorrow, rage, defiance, all of the above. The election gave voice to a movement. And the movement, itself, was our voices. All is no longer quiet on the western front. Collectively, I hope that we keep it that way.”

    — Sara Saedi

     
  • The cover of the book Flying at Night

    Flying at Night

    “In January 2017, just days after the inauguration, my best friend and I flew out to attend the Women’s March in Washington D.C. I’ve marched in protests before, both small and large, but as soon as our bus approached the parking area, MILES from even the beginning of the parade route, I could tell this was different. We marched for hours and never even found the route. All around us women and men of every race, age, and orientation, and all there for the same reason. That day awoke in me, and a lot of other women too, the idea that our voices, when joined, create a lot of noise. Noise for justice, peace, equality, and kindness. The last year has been one of change, chaos, and heartbreak, but I carry in my own heart the feeling of that day; the feeling of being surrounded by love, compassion, and power. I continue to remind myself not to stop using my voice and making beautiful NOISE!”

    — Rebecca L. Brown

     
  • The cover of the book The Queen of Hearts

    The Queen of Hearts

    “We are living in dizzying times. My two young daughters accept it as a matter of course that they are equal to any boy. They have not yet experienced being paid less than a man for the same work (as I have as a physician), or sexual harassment, or exclusion from opportunity. After our president’s sexual predation comments, I expected my daughters to be upset. But instead they were dismissive. My heart soars at their confidence.”

    — Kimmery Martin

     
  • The cover of the book Grump: The (Fairly) True Tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

    Grump: The (Fairly) True Tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

    “It’s exciting and frightening to watch my own daughter grow up in the thick of the #MeToo movement, surrounded by smart, powerful women. She’s only fourteen, but already I feel she has such awareness, far more than I had at her age. She’s got righteous rage, and it is inspiring. At the same time, I fear this rage could take over completely. I don’t want my daughter to know rage more than love. So I’m often contemplating how I can radiate more love. Rage has its place, but it should stem from love, never overpower it.”

    — Liesl Shurtliff

     
  • The cover of the book Dreams of Falling

    Dreams of Falling

    “My mother was the typical June Cleaver housewife. I came of age in the 1980’s and gleefully left my mother’s ideas of womanhood behind as I pursued my career. My daughter was born in 1992, and I look at her generation with not a little envy. The struggles of previous generations have given them the freedom to choose what kind of lives they want to live, not by rejecting the old ideas of femininity, but by acknowledging them while embracing new ideas of what it means to be a strong woman. And that freedom to choose is what gives us our power.”

    — Karen White

     
  • The cover of the book Ash Princess

    Ash Princess

    “We might have been shoved backwards, but now we find ourselves at a fork in the road. Will we sit quietly and let the world shove us back into darkness? Or will we force our way forward, protest every injustice, scream like the banshees we have been painted as in order to secure a better world for ourselves and the next generation? If the last couple of years have taught me anything, it’s that these fights are never over but they are worth fighting every step of the way.”

    — Laura Sebastian

     
  • The cover of the book Covert Game

    Covert Game

    “Martin Luther King Jr. once said, ‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.’ In this climate of empowering women’s voices and showing support for our ability and right to speak out against those who have used their power to intimidate or victimize us, I am proud of those with the courage to speak up. I am proud of those with the courage to face the horrible things that have happened to them and say, ‘I am not the one to be ashamed.’ There is a sisterhood that is expanding into an entire community in this movement of speaking out against abuse of power and sexual aggression toward women. I am glad to see celebrities use their vast platforms to reach thousands and I am glad to see the quietest woman find her inner-courage and say ‘Me too.’ I’m glad to see silence rejected and courageous voices embraced. To me, this is a pivotal time in women’s history where shame has shifted from victim to villain.”

    — Christine Feehan

     
  • The cover of the book Roses and Radicals

    Roses and Radicals

    The Epic Story of How American Women Won the Right to Vote

    “Women won right to vote in 1920 after a battle including beatings, arrest, and force feedings. Prior to winning this right, girls received little education, and were expected to marry in their teens and deliver many children. After the vote, women still had to fight for their freedoms. Even today, the only right protected in the U.S. Constitution is a woman’s right to vote. Without an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), women will never have true equality or protection in the eyes of the law. However, times are changing. Women are standing up, speaking out, and we will never be silenced again!”

    — Susan Zimet

     
  • The cover of the book What the Night Sings

    What the Night Sings

    “We’re at a messy, but necessary, moment in women’s history. Despite mixed messages, two things women must commit to are: refusing to return to a Victorian powerlessness, and keeping conversations about agency nuanced and open. The way the USA Gymnasts bravely faced down their abuser in court beautifully exemplifies strong female self-advocacy. Their exercise of agency saved a generation of their peers from a dangerous predator. Like Gerta in What the Night Sings, their victimhood is very real, and potentially permanently defining. But with loving support in their lives—including healthy, conscience-governed men—they are transcending their tragedy. Right now we have a great opportunity to care for each other.”

    — Vesper Stamper

     
  • The cover of the book The Confessions of Young Nero

    The Confessions of Young Nero

    “I have been privileged to write biographical novels about some of the biggest names in women’s history—Cleopatra, Elizabeth I, Helen of Troy. Even Nero, my latest subject, was surrounded by equally famous women—Agrippina, Poppaea. These are among a handful whose names have survived from the past, because they were royal, and in Helen of Troy’s case, the daughter of a god. But until fairly recently, ordinary women were born, lived, and died unknown. Now cultural attention has shifted so that they are no longer history’s invisibles but are in the forefront of  history itself. And many who were overlooked before—such as Dorothy Vaughan,  Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson, three African-American math whizzes who worked at NASA at the height of the Cold War—are being discovered and celebrated. It is about time!”

    — Margaret George

     
  • The cover of the book Next Year in Havana

    Next Year in Havana

    “Throughout history, women have been speaking out and standing up for the things they believe in, fighting to improve their lives, the lives of those around them, and the future for next generations. While progress has been gradual, and at times uneven, this is the legacy we have inherited, the torch we carry, the mantle we pass down. This moment—like all the ones that came before it—is part of an ongoing call for change spearheaded by extraordinary women doing extraordinary things with the hope that the battles fought now will finally be won.”

    — Chanel Cleeton

     
  • The cover of the book A Lady's Guide to Selling Out

    A Lady's Guide to Selling Out

    A Novel

    “I find myself thinking these days of Lady Macbeth. Four hundred years ago, under her thumb and Shakespeare’s guidance, Macbeth willed himself to head of state. Power made Macbeth mad – it always does – and madness at the top has a curious trickle-down effect. In the last act, racked with guilt, Lady Macbeth commits suicide, a common plot point for male writers and one worth revising. For if this moment in women’s history has taught us anything, it’s that women, faced with the corrosive effects of male ambition, don’t just go mad, they mobilize. The new Birnam Wood wears pussy hats.”

    — Sally Franson

     
  • The cover of the book The Explorers: The Reckless Rescue

    The Explorers: The Reckless Rescue

    “Women are speaking up. We want people to listen to us, to hear our stories; to empathize with and understand our experiences. Experiences that are as diverse as the women sharing them. In the world of literature, this means more focus than ever on female characters who are three dimensional, complicated and flawed, who are unique individuals molded by unique experiences.  In other words, real people, just like their authors. My hope is that we are on the road to where women and their stories are not seen as “other” or as “women’s fiction,” but as universal, compelling, and with serious world views on par with stories told by men or from a male perspective.”

    — Adrienne Kress

     
  • The cover of the book The Burial Society

    The Burial Society

    A Novel

    “After 20 plus years working in film and television, the boiling lava of allegations and revelations that continues to erupt does not shock me. I had my own stories: the nervous giggles and jokes deployed to keep hands at bay, the invitations to drinks in hotels, the outright sexual assault where I kept my mouth shut because I was starting out and my assailant had Oscars. I took it all in stride because it was the way things were.

    What has shocked me are the accusations against men I knew and trusted. What’s shocked me is how many women, not just in Hollywood but across the spectrum of American life, have come forward. I applaud every woman brave enough to say enough. Let’s wrap our arms around each other in order to ensure this is a movement, not a moment. #TimesUp.”

    — Nina Sadowsky

     
  • The cover of the book Other People's Houses

    Other People's Houses

    “I’m a little uncomfortable about this moment in women’s history, because any time the media gleefully latches on to something it makes me anxious. Relationships of gender and power are very layered, and I worry that if all women are portrayed as victims and all men are portrayed as predators we won’t be able to calmly make the deep and permanent changes in education and culture that we must. This cannot be just women versus men; it must be all of humanity versus completely amoral assholes. The media loves to divide by gender or color or orientation because it makes for shorter headlines. This is far too important a moment for intellectual laziness.”

    — Abbi Waxman

     
  • The cover of the book Tess of the Road

    Tess of the Road

    “I think some of the recent anti-feminist backlash is due to climate change. Even deniers must feel it, a kind of low-grade fear that big upheavals are coming. There will be more climate refugees (disproportionately women) and more weather disasters. It’s human nature to try to clamp down when you’re afraid, to hold tighter to the things you think you can control. That’s misguided, though. Women’s education, women’s control of their own fertility, women’s freedom to organize, innovate, and act – we’re not going to solve a problem this enormous without them. Climate change is a feminist issue.”

    — Rachel Hartman

     
  • The cover of the book The Incendiaries

    The Incendiaries

    A Novel

    “I think often of these lines from Anne Carson: ‘Why does tragedy exist? Because you are full of rage. Why are you full of rage? Because you are full of grief.’

    For so many women, these past months have been especially difficult, the daily news providing an ongoing reminder of pain, rage, grief, and systemic inequality. I think, though—I hope, at least—that if we make it through this time, we could be on a trajectory toward a better, less unjust way of being.”

    — R. O. Kwon

     
  • The cover of the book Somebody's Daughter

    Somebody's Daughter

    “As painful and disturbing as it is to hear the stories coming out as part of the #MeToo movement, I’d like to think the end result is going to be positive. Yes, the cure is painful, but then we’ll all be better as we recover and move forward. Writers and other artists should be at the forefront of showing everyone both how the world is—the problems and the challenges—as well as showing everyone what the world can be—more equal, more inclusive. I value writers and books that do both. We need them.”

    — David Bell

     
  • The cover of the book The Broken Girls

    The Broken Girls

    “I think these are challenging times for women, but the best way to take heart is to look at the women who have come before us. Fighting for our rights is nothing new. Generations of women fought for the vote, and in the last century women have courageously pressed forward. I see opposition, but I don’t see our courage failing. I don’t think that’s possible. I think forward is the only way we’ll go.”

    — Simone St. James

     
  • The cover of the book The Intermission

    The Intermission

    “I’m excited to be a working wife and mother at this time in history. Maybe I’m too young or naïve to know the difference, but this time really feels different. I think those in positions of power across industries will think twice about paying a woman less for equal work and will be more conscious than ever about the way they conduct themselves in the workplace. Most importantly, I think any woman who is subject to sexist treatment will be more confident coming forward because the message is clear: you are not alone.”

    — Elyssa Friedland

     
  • The cover of the book Vox

    Vox

    “History has a habit of repeating itself. Perhaps history is less creative than we’d like it to be. This can be fertile ground for literature exploring women’s issues. In my political dystopia Vox, I create a society in which women are silenced, kept out of the public sphere, rendered uninfluential. Near-future speculative fiction? Maybe. But the world we see in Vox is little more than a mirror image of the 19th-century ‘Cult of Domesticity,’ a movement that, ironically, influenced modern feminism. If ever we see ourselves slipping backward, let’s remember that backsliding often leads to forward motion.”

    — Christina Dalcher

     
  • The cover of the book Tricks for Free

    Tricks for Free

    “When I was a teenager, helping to run my high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance (later called the Queer Alliance, and currently called QUILTBAG), I thought by the time I was a grown up, we’d have figured out that love is love, and family is family, and what matters is how much we take care of each other.  I never dreamt my rights to bodily autonomy and personal security would still be under attack.  I only hope I can put enough kindness into the world to balance it a little. I’m so tired of being tired.”

    — Seanan McGuire

     
  • The cover of the book Song of a Captive Bird

    Song of a Captive Bird

    A Novel

    “As women around the world continue asserting their right to respect, freedom, and self-expression, we need the insights of those who came before, of women whose souls were perhaps forged in hotter fires than ours. The Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad is one of these. When I began writing Song of a Captive Bird, a novel based on her life, I couldn’t imagine how timely her story would become. Her questions are our questions: What does it mean for a woman to claim her power? To give voice to abuse? To be a mother and a professional? To assert her identity as a citizen? Listening to her answers, we fortify our own.”

    — Jasmin Darznik

     
  • The cover of the book All the Beautiful Girls

    All the Beautiful Girls

    A Novel

    “Women’s bodies are once again at the forefront of this country’s political and cultural consciousness. We have been raped, assaulted, judged, and demeaned – and that’s just the start. But in a time when it might be tempting to focus on the pain and hurt so blithely inflicted upon so many women, I’d like to focus on the power of women’s bodies: to bear and raise children, to run marathons, climb mountains, and to swim across oceans. Most of all, I’d like to praise women’s bodies – as beautiful in every shape and form, and as phenomenal, resilient survivors.”

    — Elizabeth J. Church

     
  • For more literary celebration of Women’s History Month, check out Authors Share Their Favorite Kids’ Books About Girls, Written by Women at Brightly.