This week on the Deb Ball, we’re celebrating books we love, books we dogear and reread and recommend, books we wish we wrote. And you know me, I thought I’d put a spin on it. Because there’s so much more to the writing life than just the final product.
So here are five women whose craft I covet, but whose literary life I also admire unfailingly. And this list is not counting my fellow debs, who all totally kick ass and take names, too.
Jennifer Weiner: The first time I read Good In Bed, I thought it was awesome. Weiner’s tale of an everygirl trying to cope with weight, a dysfunctional clan, romantic disasters and a real career was, dare I say it, a turning point in commercial women’s fiction. And she’s followed it up with hits like In Her Shoes, Certain Girls and most recently All Fall Down. But it’s her amazing fighting spirit that I think is truly amazing. She’s working to ensure women’s voices are heard and counted – taking on the like of Franzen and the Times and anyone else who tries to denigrate women’s work as “hardly literature.” Eff that noise!
Laurie Halse Anderson: Let me make a confession right now. I was floored the first time I read Speak. And astounded by Wintergirls. So much so that I did my MFA critical thesis on Anderson’s use of structure in those works. If you haven’t checked out her stuff, please do. I promise: it’s jaw-droppingly good. And it will expand the way you see YA and literature. But beyond that, check out Laurie for her amazing candidness, her openness to both readers and other writers, the way she’s championing banned books – and not just because her own books are frequently banned. She’s an amazing author, and an amazing person.
Ellen Oh: Ellen is the awesome author of the kickass Prophecy series, a fantasy trilogy about Kira, a female soldier who’s super-conflicted about her mission. It’s rich and deep and meaty. But she’s also the mom of three girls — and they’re what moved her to found the #WeNeedDiverseBooks initiative — a movement whose time has come. I don’t know how Ellen and the exec team do it all, but they are the epitome of the word AMAZING, and what they are doing is so, so critical. Plus, whenever she writes an essay or makes a speech, she totally makes me cry. No easy feat. So there’s that!
Chitra Divakaruni: There’s something to be said for being a pioneer – and Ms. Divakaruni, with works like Sister of My Heart, Arranged Marriage, and The Queen of Dreams, certainly is one, hitting the American fiction landscape way back in the early ‘90s, before “India was trendy.” There’s another thing to be said for longevity – no easy feat in the fickle publishing world. Divakaruni has shown us that it’s possible to thrive. And finally, she puts her money where her mouth, working with literacy groups in the Houston area, where she is a professor, and as the co-founder of the critically necessary Maitri, a helpline for South Asian women facing domestic abuse. Definitely someone you can be proud to look up to.
Roxane Gay: Talk about changing the landscape – Roxane is having a profound impact in making voices heard, both her own, and others, as she champions bad feminists everywhere. She’s shown me and thousands of other female writers – especially writers of color – that we don’t have to be quiet or painfully polite to build a “platform.” In fact, making your voice heard is what it’s all about, right? Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction or both, as she is. With books like Bad Feminist and An Untamed State, Gay reminds us that writing is a career and a calling.