Women Writers: The American Dream

To celebrate International Women’s Day this March, we are proud to share a brand new post from our ongoing American Women Writers series. Join us as we explore the lives and works of famous greats such as Harper Lee, Sylvia Plath, Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison, whose writing spans subjects of morality, grief, mental health, identity, culture and race.

From this series of blog posts, we have chosen writers who we absolutely love, and who we think are champions not only of female literature but also of the female experience. We hope you enjoy reading this blog post as much as we have enjoyed exploring these fantastic authors and learning more about their lives and all they stood for.

You can view our first blog post on American Women Writers here, and our second blog post here.

 Harper Lee

‘Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read.’

To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee

Harper Lee famously wrote the classic To Kill a Mockingbird which has seen several editions in its lifetime. Set in rural Alabama, echoing Harper Lee’s own experiences of childhood where she grew up, To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those books that we just can’t help coming back to. Seen by many as a very private person, Harper Lee achieved enormous success with her novel, spanning themes of racism in the Deep South, and the author won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize, before going on to receive honorary degrees and recognition for her contribution to American literature. However, despite worldwide attention for the book, the famed novelist declined many interview and publicity requests, preferring instead to let the brevity of her writing speak for itself – which it certainly does. 

Worth countless rereads, Harper Lee’s work is extraordinary in its own right and To Kill a Mockingbird is definitely a book we hold in high esteem.

Sylvia Plath

‘I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in my life. And I am horribly limited.’

The Bell Jar Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath remains one of the greatest and much loved American writers to date and much of her work resonates strongly with countless individuals, so much so that it’s hard not to include her in this line up of extraordinary female writers. Much of Sylvia Plath’s writing explores the deep chasms of human experience, detailing grief, identity and emotional anguish based on Plath’s own life. Her semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, is frequently proclaimed by many readers as a treasured favourite, and it’s impossible to deny how deeply Plath’s work is ingrained in popular culture today. Loved by teens discovering her work for the first time and others who have known her work for decades, Sylvia Plath was an extraordinary poet and writer of short fiction, whose life was tragically affected by ill mental health, yet her work still remains for readers to peruse and fall in love with at their leisure.

She lived in both America and England, having been born in Massachusetts in 1932 before settling in London, then Devon, near the end of her life.

Maya Angelou 

‘What you're supposed to do when you don't like a thing is change it.’

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Maya Angelou

A famous figure, writer and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou paved the way for so many black women and women of colour with her captivating writing and praised determination for social change. Her most famous work is probably most notably I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, however Maya Angelou wrote an impressive selection of autobiographies, essays, and poetry that detailed her life – and continued writing and performing her work right up until shortly before she died. She remains a huge inspiration for many and led a long, exceptional life, facing her own difficulties and emotional challenges from a very young age. From this, and encouragement from a trusted teacher, she found strength in her own voice, and the writing she created as a result still enthrals readers, destined to find a home on bookshelves today.

Most of her work, if not all, encompasses her own personal experiences, yet remains universal in its truth to readers.

Toni Morrison

‘If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.’

Toni Morrison Beloved

Famous for writing novels which explore the African American experience, Toni Morrison is one of America’s most celebrated authors. Her novels often uncover themes of racism and prejudice that has affected generations. Through her work as an editor at Random House during the 1960s, she’s considered to be a pioneer figure in bringing Black literature to the forefront of popular literature, and was herself the first black female editor to work at the publishing house in New York at this time. Like Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison battled social inequality and prejudice from an early age which undoubtedly shaped her childhood. These experiences went on to shape not only the rest of her life but also her writing, firmly grounded in values she held important and cherished, such as family, identity and heritage. Her novel, Beloved, also won her the Pulitzer Prize and she later went on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, among other awards and inspired even more students and young minds when she taught creative writing at university.

Truly evocative in her style of writing, Toni Morrison is a household name for a reason and is endlessly respected for the breadth of diversity that she has brought to popular literature and culture.

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