We all need heroes in our lives. They are the ones that we admire. We aspire to follow in their footsteps.
Kate Zambreno’s 2012 book, Heroines, is about the female authors who overcame the title of “female author”, to become successful in their own right.
The origins of the book come from the author’s blog, started on December 31st, 2009. Entitled Frances Farmer Is My Sister, Ms. Zambreno wrote about authors such as Jean Rhys and Zelda Fitzgerald. These women, whose abilities as writers equaled the male writers around them, were only thought to be muses. Because they were women, no one believed that they could write as well as a man. They were silenced, institutionalized and erased (thankfully for us, only temporarily) from literary history.
The format of this book is not written in the traditional format. Retaining the blog style of writing, the author lays out the difficulties that previous generations of female writers had to overcome. One of the qualities of the book that caught me off guard was how angry I got. Zelda Fitzgerald is not just the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. She was a brilliant writer in her own right. Jean Rhy’s novel, Wide Sargasso Sea is the highly acclaimed and respected prequel to Jane Eyre. She dared to flesh out the character of Bertha, Mr. Rochester’s first wife. In Jane Eyre, Bertha Rochester is a one dimensional madwoman who nearly kills her husband and burns Thornfield to the ground. Jean Rhys made Bertha an empathetic character whom the reader feels for because of the circumstances forced upon her.
Gloria Steinem once said the following:
The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.
This book pissed me off. But it also set me free. This is one of best feminist non-fiction books that I have ever read and I highly recommend it.