Born Chloe Anthony Wofford in 1931, Toni Morrison is one of the most iconic literary figures of the twentieth century. She was born in Ohio, to which her parents, Ramah Willis Wofford and George Wofford, moved in order to escape the racist climate of the US South. I'll be referring to her by the name by which she is known professionally, Toni Morrison, throughout this piece, but I want to point out that Toni is the nickname, and Chloe Wofford preferred. She writes a lot about being denied one's true self, and, as naming is a powerful determinant here, I don't care to be one to let this writer's true self go unacknowledged. Morrison, then, won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993–the eighth woman to be awarded this honour–and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988. Morrison's services to literature have not just been through her own fiction, however; she's edited writers such as Angela Davis, promoting black literature every which way she can.
Tamora Pierce is every feminist fantasy fan's favorite, hands down. She writes engaging adventure stories with, for a nice chance, substantive engagement with social justice issues. Born in Pennsylvania in 1954, Pierce started writing her fierce teenage girl warriors when she couldn't find them in the books she read. Thanks to Pierce, millions of readers don't have that problem. I discovered her when I was twelve after a classmate just wouldn't put the Alanna books down. I'm only sorry that I didn't discover them earlier, because the intervening years have been full of fan-ish joy.
The series may be barely over, but we all knew from about the fourth book on that Harry Potter is the children's literary icon of its time. Let's take a look at its author, J.K. Rowling, and the young ladies of the series.
Gather around, children. It's time for a story. Several, actually. I've been thinking about picture books, and how big an impact a story can have with just a few words. Get thinking about the picture book icons of your childhood while I take you through some of my experiences and what the kids are reading these days.
I was twelve or thirteen when I first started reading and writing fan fiction, and I can't see myself stopping any time soon. Fan fiction is not only creative, I haven't simply been a part of great communities, but there are some really interesting dynamics going on with feminist refiguring of literary icons.
Octavia E. Butler is most likely the best writer I've ever encountered. That's certainly true technically: she's flawless. I mean that there is literally not a thing I would change in her writing, and that is absolutely unique. But it's her incisive, loving explorations of a broken world that will blow your mind wide open.
I've always liked Eleanor Roosevelt because, unlike a lot of other first ladies, even in my dude-heavy history textbooks she was portrayed as having an identity beyond political wifehood. Why, then, did I decide to read a biography that is specifically not about Eleanor on her own, but instead focuses her relationship with that other important person she was married to? A biography that doesn't even list her name first? To be totally honest, I was convinced by the advertising. I heard a review that hailed Hazel Rowley's Franklin and Eleanor as a "crackling" account of the Roosevelts' "radical" marriage, written by an author who'd detailed other unconventional partnerships in the past. I never knew much about the Roosevelts' marriage before I read this book (other than the fact that the two were distant cousins who were both related in some way to Teddy) so the idea that their relationship was somehow "radical" was intriguing to me.
The reality of the book is a little disappointing.