Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Sara and Melissa Talk About...Wonderful Women

We've been running a column series (for two years now!) to get more personal with our readers. International Women's Day was yesterday, but we wanted to honor it today by talking about women we admire.

We're always open to topic suggestions, so please don't hesitate to share those in the comments. We'd also love to know if you can relate to anything we've said or hear your own thoughts on the topic. So don't be shy. :) We look forward to getting to know you as much as we're letting you get to know us. You can find our previous columns here, in case you missed them.

Sara Steven:                                                                                                                               
The other day, my husband and I were talking about the movie Charlotte’s Web–the original cartoon version from 1973. It is one of my favorites, and I watched it so often that I knew all of the lines and songs by heart. At the time, I didn’t know who Debbie Reynolds was. I only knew of her by the sound of her voice as she portrayed Charlotte, a wise angelic spider who watched over Wilber the pig and did everything she could, even at the cost of her own life, in order to save him. It would be several years later when my father bonded with me over his Westerns and I’d get to see Debbie Reynolds in human form as Lilith Prescott in How the West Was Won. I joke now on how I’d been held hostage during the screening of those movies, hidden away within our living room, the VHS player emitting a barely there squeak as the wheels turned from within it. But the truth was, I look back at those moments fondly. My dad introduced me to many of the greats; women who often pushed beyond the boundaries of what was acceptable or womanly behavior, in order to pave the way or at times shape and influence how a woman could and would think or act or behave, often from the silver screen. 

I participated in a film course recently while attending ASU, and one of the movies I watched and analyzed was Singin’ in the Rain. Reynolds was only nineteen when she worked on the film. She didn’t know how to dance–yet she worked tirelessly in order to learn, often ending practice sessions with bloody feet. She’s quoted as saying, “Singin’ in the Rain and childbirth were the two hardest things I ever had to do in my life,” and I don’t doubt that. It amazes me that someone so young could rise up to the challenge because she didn’t want to let anyone down, or to fail. She didn’t want to be judged by her age, lack of skill, or not to be taken seriously due to not having as much of an impressive resume as her counterparts in the film. I can’t even imagine what that experience must have been like for her.

Maureen O’Hara is another performer who I admired and looked up to in my childhood, and beyond. For her, art imitated life. The characters she embodied were often fiery spirits who pressed back against conventional behaviors that dictated how women were meant to behave. From what I’ve read, she was that way off-screen, too. I first saw her in The Parent Trap (1961), and later in The Quiet Man, another movie my father had introduced me to. In her personal life, O’Hara had been a tomboy–playing soccer, climbing trees, later developing into a beautiful, talented woman who wouldn’t let anyone get away with anything–as she would say, someone who “gave as good as she got.” It’s rumored that she had run-ins with director John Ford during filming of The Quiet Man; during one scene when the wind whipped around making it difficult to see, due to her long red hair, he told her to “Open her damn eyes,” and she replied: “What would a bald-headed son of a bitch like you know about hair lashing across his eyeballs?” 

One of the most controversial and complicated women I admire is Mae West. I had discovered her during my late teen years, learning about her penchant for speaking her mind and bucking censorship, a move that often landed her in jail. For a woman in the 1920s who had written, directed, and produced a show aptly named “Sex,” what could be expected? But she didn’t care. It appeared to fuel her–the judgment, the condemnation. She would often turn the tables in order to make others think and second-guess the double standards that were in place for men and for women. She was known for her bawdy demeanor and double entendre lines, like, “There are no good girls gone wrong - just bad girls found out,” and “When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better,” and then there’s one of her most famous quotes: “It’s not the men in your life that matters, it’s the life in your men.” In some ways, she was a pioneer for women’s rights–the right to be who they want to be, to say what they want to say, and to live life the way they see fit, in whatever manner that may be. 

All three women influenced culture and genre in their own ways, influencing the decades they performed in, wrote books in, and later professed in while giving interviews, opening the door into allowing even a little more space and room for women to breathe and just…be.

Melissa Amster:                                                                                                                       
There are a lot of women I admire for various reasons, but for purposes of today's post, I am focusing on a select group...authors. Before I even started this blog, female authors were a big part of my bookish life. As I was growing up, I had Judy Blume, Ann M. Martin, Francine Pascal, S.E. Hinton, and V.C. Andrews (until her books were taken over by a male ghostwriter), just to name a few. As an adult, I started getting into chick lit with Bridget Jones's Diary and then Marian Keyes, Jennifer Weiner, and Jane Green. Later on, Jodi Picoult, Sophie Kinsella, and Emily Giffin joined the mix. 

When I started my blog, it was definitely focused on novels written by female authors. Little did I know that I would form connections with so many amazing authors over these past twelve (gasp!) years. Sarah Pekkanen was the first author to contact me out of the blue and offer me a chance to read her incredible debut novel, The Opposite of Me. I also got to connect with authors I've admired after reading even just one of their novels. I've met many in person and they are so friendly and down-to-earth. When I went to Kristin Hannah's book signing a few years ago, she even hugged me! I've invited authors to speak with my book club, as well as my friend's book club (that I join whenever an author I know is speaking). 

With Kristin Hannah, February 2018

I love seeing female authors support each other. They promote other authors' books to their readers and go to their events. It's like an online sisterhood. Speaking of which, my first year going to Book Expo, I was invited to a party later in the evening where a bunch of authors I had connected with were getting together in one place. It was like going to a reunion, of sorts. It felt so natural to hang out in person after all the connecting we've done online. There are still some authors I adore whom I have yet to meet in person, but I hope to make that happen one of these days. (One of them told me she'll be out my way this summer, so I am looking forward to that.) 

Female authors don't get taken seriously in the same way that male authors do, and I know Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner have done a lot to push back against that. While I like some male authors, my shelves are definitely dominated by all the female authors I love, and I wouldn't have it any other way!

Tell us about the women you admire.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

No comments: