(PSA: This was previously posted over at Booklikes, whose site is not as interactive for non-members as I would've hoped. Henceforth I will be using Blogger to maintain this blog!)
I should perhaps start by introducing myself. My name is Tracy,
though I prefer Trai, and I'm a twentysomething reader and writer. I'm
an Austen fan, a fledgling feminist, and, a favorite teacher once told
me, a "connoisseur of the obscure!" And this is my newest venture.
This is a new platform for me, and a new blog--though I ran a book blog
for a few years, I fell out of it once my last year of college and life
after graduation became too busy for me to keep up with reviewing
everything I read. I'm still deciding what to do with that blog, which
is a wonderful record of how I started as a reviewer, but as I've grown
older, I've begun to approach books in different ways. This new blog
will reflect that.
"I read [history] a little as a duty, but it tells me
nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and
kings, with wars or pestilences, in every page; the men all so good for
nothing, and hardly any women at all—it is very tiresome..." (Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen)
I was surprised to realize recently how true this line of Catherine Morland's rang for me. Hardly any women at all:
I realize now that's been my sticking point with books for years.
Though my father was a history teacher, I never found myself much
interested in history. I only started reading classic literature at
sixteen, with the novels of Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott becoming
my favorites. I connected with those female protagonists: with Jo
March's dreams of being a writer, with Fanny Price's steadfastness and
timidity, with Elinor and Anne's quiet endurance in the face of a
society that had marked them out as spinsters. As I grew older, into the
woman I am now, I realized how much I was hungering for female
characters I felt I could relate to, in books or TV. I've found others
outside of Austen: characters like Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville, Mary
Robinette Kowal's Jane Ellsworth, and Thomas Hardy's Bathsheba Everdene,
or strong women in science fiction such as The X-Files' Dana Scully (a favorite childhood show I'm rewatching these days), Doctor Who's Rose Tyler, and Orphan Black's Sarah Manning.
But these women, as much as I love them, are simply characters. I
loved Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott for the women they were, but
other than them, I hadn't found very many real-life, historical women I
could read about and be interested. Because like Catherine Morland, the
history I'd been made to read was about men. It's only now that I'm
beginning to make my way through a history often ignored: women's.
“I first visualized in rapt childish
ecstasy a world in which women would no longer be the second-rate,
unimportant creatures that they were now considered, but the equal and
respected companions of men.” (Testament of Youth, Vera Brittain)
Vera Brittain is who I have to thank for that. Testament of Youth
has been my favorite read of this year, and the inspiration behind my
digging deeper into history. Women in wartime, the generation of
"surplus women" left single, the history of women in medicine, the
fights for education and the right to vote: I'm eager to learn about all
these things, and others. Last year's film Belle was groundbreaking for its showing the story of a woman of color in the Regency era, a start towards diversity in period films that writers like Mary Robinette Kowal
are trying to honor in their novels. Paula Byrne's biography of Dido
Belle, which I read last year, was another eye-opener for me: a story
mostly lost to history, but nonetheless a fascinating portrait of a
woman I was glad to learn more about.
There are women in history I wish I could have known about when I was
younger. There are stories that present the sort of equal relationships
Vera Brittain longed to see, the type of relationships I look for in
fiction these days. I have only to find them, and this is my journey
now. I don't pretend to be a well-read historian or feminist, I'm simply
a novice hungry to learn more, but this blog will hopefully record my
journey towards the sort of reading experience I craved as a young woman
and didn't know how to find. Whether I'm reading JAFF (Jane Austen
fanfiction), social history or nonfiction focusing on women, or just a
regular novel, I hope to enlighten others who might be looking for the
same sorts of books I am.
I hope to get to know people here, and to share my love of reading, whatever I choose to read next!