3.02.2015

10 great books written by women

March is Women's History Month, so as a committed bookworm, I've put together a list of ten of my favorite books written by women. These are books that have inspired me, challenged me, and even changed the way I view the world.

1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, 1963
This book shows up on a lot of lists, and for good reason. Plath's heroine, Esther, a thinly veiled image of herself, questions her role as a woman in 1950s America. She possesses the gifts of brilliance and talent, but fears that these gifts will be wasted if she becomes a wife and mother. Before the modern women's rights movement began, Plath challenged the status quo and her heroine fights for her own intellectual and creative freedom, at the same time fighting to regain her sanity.

2. The Awakening by Kate Chopin, 1899
The Awakening tells the story of Edna Pontellier, a wife and mother living in Creole New Orleans. She is an artistic, passionate woman trapped in a world that has no place for her. Many of us have felt that we are living our lives in a false way, as if we have put up a facade to show to the world. Edna desperately wants to be free of her loveless marriage, but even the man with whom she is in love, and who loves her, will not permit her to break her vows to her husband; she belongs to him. To a modern reader, the story is even more of a tragedy, as her unhappiness seems needless.

3. Hanna's Daughters by Marianne Fredriksson, 1994
This is the story of three generations of women and spans 100 years of Swedish history. Hanna, the matriarch of the family, experiences great personal violence and tragedy at a young age, but is able to overcome it, even as it shapes her character and sets the stage for the lives of the women to come.

4.La Vagabonde by Colette, 1910
One could read this book as an example of an early women’s liberation story, but I think it’s really deeper than that. In a time when women were meant to be submissive toward their husbands, RenĂ©e, having been deeply hurt and humiliated by her ex-husband, refuses to give any part of herself to a man ever again. This book asks very important questions, considering the era in which it was written: Can a woman retain her freedom after marriage? Can she even pursue her own career and interests? Must she give up her whole heart to her lover?

5. Solanin by Inio Asano, 2006
The is the only manga on my list, but this is really just a beautiful book, both in artwork and in prose. Meiko, the central character, is a disillusioned office worker in modern Tokyo, longing for something she can't yet define. She is surrounded by men, mainly her boyfriend and his band mates, all of whom are equally lost in the modern world around them. When tragedy strikes, it is Meiko who brings them together, and they realize that it is their friendship that makes life meaningful.

6. Shirley by Charlotte Bronte, 1849
Although I love Jane Eyre, it is Shirley that captures my imagination. One of the central points in the book is the oppression of women. There are many characters, both male and female, that object to the idea of women taking an active role in the public world. Women were confined to the home, and they were thought not to possess the mental capacity for business or politics. Shirley, due to her more elevated place in society, forces the men around her to take her seriously as a participant in the defense of her property. She also rejects several suitable offers of marriage, declaring her intent to marry only for love. The creation of a character like Shirley, I think, demonstrates Charlotte Bronte's own frustrations as a woman living in Victorian England.

7. Persuasion by Jane Austen, 1818
There is nothing inherently feminist about Persuasion, other than that it is written from a woman's point of view, but I have to include it on this list because it's one of my all-time favorite books! It's such an enjoyable read, it's one of my go-to books when I need a pick-me-up.

8. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim, 1924
This is one of those books that, whenever I finish it, I sigh happily with a dreamy smile on my face. This is the story of four women, strangers at first, who share a small castle on the Italian riviera for the month of April. At first, they are wary of each other, afraid to get too close. But soon, the magic of their surroundings forces them to open up, first finding friendship in each other, but soon, finding their own truths and authentic selves.

9. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 1892
This famous short novel is one of the most important pieces of early feminist literature. And it's GOOD. A woman is confined to an upstairs bedroom by her physician husband, for treatment of "hysteria", a common mental diagnosis among women during the 1800s and early 1900s. Her husband has barred the windows, she is forbidden to write, and soon she truly descends into madness. She becomes obsessed with the yellow wallpaper on the wall, as her mind desperately seeks stimulation. In the end, she refuses to even leave the room, as it has become her refuge, the only place she feels safe. She is a woman who, having had her life completely controlled by men, finally loses her mind.

10. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, 1868
The story of the four March girls is an American classic, and definitely deserves a spot on this list. Jo, Meg, Amy, and Beth are so very different from each other, but it is their closeness that the most charming aspect of the book. Jo, being the feminist writer of the family, explores the competitive world of publishing and finds that world largely closed off to her. At the same time, the Civil War has just ended and the very nature of freedom is being debated in America. Alcott uses these four women to portray four very different paths that women could take in 19th century America.

I hope you enjoyed peeking through my list! If you have any books to add or suggest, please leave me a comment!   

2.21.2015

light changes


Spring has arrived early here in Seattle. The cherry blossoms and magnolias are blooming, the sun is shining, and the very air seems fresher and kinder. This happens quite often...we get a "false spring" for a few weeks in February, before the temperature plummets and we're once again mired in rain, fog, and biting wind.

But who am I to question this weather when light like this streams into the house? There seems to be a promise of warmer, more hopeful days ahead. I might finally finish unpacking and putting up our pictures! What!

We haven't had a real home in a few years. We've moved 4 times in the past 2 and a half years. The first house we moved into turned out to be a nightmare of cold and mold...we had to break our lease and throw away a lot of our things that had been ruined by mold. The second place was an apartment that seemed promising, but we soon realized that the neighbor next door was a chronic marijuana smoker. We had to again break our lease (and later sue our crazy landlord for our deposit...we won). The third house was OK in itself, but our neighborhood was awful. The neighborhood kids played in our yard, throwing things at the house, and the people next door played loud music with heavy bass at all hours. We didn't break our lease, but we didn't renew it, either.

We're now in a tiny little brick house, with one bedroom, a tiny kitchen, and a fairly quiet neighborhood. The rent is cheap, the landlords are nice, and I'm within walking distance to work. My partner has turned the basement into his own little haven, and we're slowly allowing ourselves to feel comfortable.

This is why I'm so looking forward to spring, and relishing this early taste of it. After so many years of simply existing, we're ready to start living!

2.15.2015

sunday thoughts

I love weekends! Even though I love my job, by the end of the week I'm exhausted. And this week in particular has been rough.

I said in a previous post that my health is bad and I have a horrible diet. I'm not super overweight, but I could lose some poundage. With all of that, combined with an unfortunate family medical history, this past Thursday I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and Hyperlipidema (high cholesterol and triglycerides). Both my parents have diabetes, as did my mother's parents, and my dad also has high cholesterol. I'm now on diabetes medication, a statin to bring down my triglycerides, I have to check my blood sugar every day, and eat a low-fat, low-sugar diet (meaning, no more taste).

I've had a few days to get used to my new diagnoses, and I've made an appointment to meet with a diabetes educator next week. Now it's the weekend! Time to relax, right? Well, sort of. My partner believes that weekends exist to do chores and run errands. So today, he's been doing laundry and dishes and trying to get our new home security cameras set up. Yesterday, though, we went up to our favorite brewery, Fremont Brewing in Seattle, to pick up some bottles of a special release beer. My partner is a super-huge craft beer geek. I don't like beer. But going to breweries is so much fun, and it was such a gorgeous day! The place was crowded, so we didn't stay long, but I relish any opportunity to go into the city.

Tomorrow is President's Day, so I get a three-day weekend. Most likely, though, we're going to spend the entire day mounting cameras and cables. Not my idea of fun. My ideal weekend day is spending time with a good book, browsing an antique store, or going on a photo walk. I don't get to do that too much, so when I do, it's so much the better.

How has your weekend been?

2.11.2015

starting out

The first post is always the hardest. Especially for me, after failing so many times to keep a blog. What is its purpose? Who will read it? What am I looking for? It's clear to me that I'm looking for something. Virginia Woolf said that a person needs a room of one's own...maybe this is mine?

One must also establish some facts. This is me. I am Sarah. I live just outside Seattle, WA, in a little brick house with a creepy basement, along with my partner and our three guinea pigs. I work less than a mile away at a non-profit, and I love my job. I suffer from clinical depression, poor health, and a very bad diet. I love to read, to learn, and to think. I'm always thinking. I daydream, I plot stories. I like to take pictures. I'm curious and sarcastic. I'm afraid of being judged by others. I wear jeans every day. I hate to wear shoes.

So those are some facts about me. Maybe, in time, we can get to know each other better. I don't know what kind of blog this will be...I have some ideas, but just as long as I can use this space to quiet some of the noise that's in my head, I'll be satisfied.