Once upon a time, not so many years ago, the term great American writer was understood to mean great white male American writer. There was some diversity among them. They might be Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, agnostic or atheist. They might be well-born or from humble backgrounds. They were usually heterosexual, and often quite flamboyantly so, but if they were not, they kept their sexual habits to themselves in fear of being considered, well, girlish.
Women wrote, to be sure, but men decided what would be published and other men decided who would hear about it. Gone with the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird might be wildly popular, but their authors, Margaret Mitchell and Harper Lee, were considered one-book wonders. African American men, even geniuses like James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison, might have been granted a distant corner of the literary establishment, but they were read by serious white men, whereas their female counterparts were the real invisible people. Zora Neale Hurston, who wrote four novels during the Harlem Renaissance, died in a welfare hotel in Florida where she had supplemented her income by cleaning people’s houses.
The second wave of feminism that hit the United States in the 1970s gave women new determination to be heard, to write about what interested them, and to read what other women were saying about the female condition.
Random reflections on politics, the media, political activism, women's lives and spirituality, often inspired by travel, cultural events or what I read.
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