As you may know, 8th March is International Women’s Day, the day on which almost every woman on social media (and quite a lot of the men) are repeatedly asked the question ‘But when is International Men’s Day?’ by the sort of people who can’t cope with the concept of celebrating women. (It’s November 19th if you’re wondering.) It’s also, obviously, a day on which to celebrate the achievements of women, and as such, I thought I would write a post about those female authors who have made me the reader I am today.
As I suspect is the case with many people my age, Enid Blyton is the first author I remember reading. I loved her books when I was small (and not so small, I must admit), and would always search them out in the library and in bookshops on those rare occasions when I had money to spend on books. Yes, as an author she is problematic, but she was also very much of her time, and I genuinely don’t believe I would have been the voracious reader I became if it weren’t for Enid Blyton. The Enchanted Wood and its sequels were books I went back to again and again as a child, and I longed for similar adventures.
Elinor M Brent-Dyer may just be the author who has had most influence on me, even though she died ten years before I was even born. Without the Chalet School books I would have missed out on meeting so many friends, and I almost certainly wouldn’t have the online presence I do. (I’d probably have a lot more money though *g*) I graduated to the Chalet School books from Malory Towers when I was about 8, put them away when I was about 13 and rediscovered them at 23. I still love them now, another 14 years on. The first book in the series, The School at the Chalet was published in 1924, and the series grew to 58 books by the time of Brent-Dyer’s death in 1969 (the last was published posthumously in 1970). My favourite book is The Chalet School in Exile, in which the school, established in Austria, falls foul of the Anschluss and is forced to flee to Guernsey, a choice of location I imagine EBD almost immediately regretted as Guernsey was itself occupied by the Nazis. The books were constantly in print for a staggeringly long time for old-fashioned school stories, but that’s testament to how enjoyable they are.
Which girl growing up in the 1980s and 90s didn’t read Judy Blume? Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret was the first Judy Blume book I read, when I was about 11, and it was my first introduction to all sorts of topics, from periods to masturbation! I was lucky enough to meet Judy when she was touring her latest adult book a couple of years ago, and I was overjoyed.
I moved on to fantasy books from Judy Blume pretty quickly, but almost all the authors I read (and came across!) were male. Aurian by Maggie Furey was an exception, and I loved it. The story of a young woman discovering her power and the lengths others would go to to possess it, Aurian and its sequels were possibly the first books I read where a woman saved the world.
And then we’re going to come bang up to date, because I want to talk about some of the amazing women writing today. I am constantly in awe of the sheer quality of writing in YA, and the way in which they all inspire young people. There are young adults who have formed Spinster Clubs based on Holly Bourne’s books. Juno Dawson is one of the most vocal activists for LGBT rights that I know (and the amount of crap she gets for it daily is unbelievable) and inspires young people to do the same. Amani in Rebel of the Sands is as kickass a heroine as you’ll ever want to meet. Sara Barnard’s books are about having the power to change yourself, without relying on other people. V E Schwab’s Lila and Kate aren’t taking any shit from anyone. Louise O’Neill writes about disturbing, difficult topics and gives a voice to young women who haven’t always been listened to. I haven’t read The Hate U Give yet, but my understanding is it gives a voice to disenfranchised young adults. Every single author in the collage above inspires their readers in some way, whether that’s to go off and write, to think about how they treat other people, to believe in themselves or simply to live their best life, and that is something that deserves to be celebrated.
Which female authors have inspired you? Which books would you recommend for International Women’s Day? Let me know in the comments!