Great Female Protagonists discussion

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Book Recommendations > Biography/Memior Recommendations

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message 1: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn (carolynanne) | 16 comments Mod
Please post your recommendations of great biographies and autobiographies here.


message 2: by Nicole (last edited Apr 24, 2008 08:57PM) (new)

Nicole (gardengallivant) | 8 comments Charlotte Perkins Gilman was introduced to me in a college class on American women's literature where I read 'The Yellow Wallpaper'. I followed that with a biography 'Charlotte Perkins Gilman: The Making of a Radical Feminist, 1860-1896' and a better one in 1990 "To Herland and Beyond: The Life and Work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman"
For anyone interested in the rise of the feminist movement to acquire the vote Charlotte and her family are central. Harriet Beecher Stowe was her great aunt as was Catherine Beecher.
Charlotte came from a time of great social change and Utopian dreaming. Just as Harriet Beecher Stowe had strong influences on Louisa May Alcott she certainly influenced her niece. Probably both the Alcott & the Beecher families being strongly involved in Utopian socialism, feminism, and the abolition movement in this country influenced Charlotte's writing.

Recently I read the four journals of L.M. Montgomery. As she grew older it was obvious she planned to have her journals published once all named parties were deceased. It is amusing when she comments on this and how it is altering her entries.





message 3: by Anne (new)

Anne | 1 comments Maria Flook--My Sister Life
Mary Karr--Cherry
Giocanda Belli--The Country Under My Skin (a female revolutionary in Nicaragua!)


message 4: by Laura (new)

Laura Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser



JG (Introverted Reader) I'm not a huge fan of non-fiction, but I enjoyed these books:

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
and
God Save the Sweet Potato Queens by Jill Conner Brown (This is the second one. I haven't been able to find the first at the library.)




message 6: by Darby (new)

Darby | 2 comments I am a big fan of memoirs (often better than fiction "you can't make this stuff up") and the two best that I have read are:

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
-and-
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

Some other good ones are:

A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel
Blackbird by Jennifer Lauck
All Over But the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg


whichwaydidshego Laura & Darby, while a good book, Angela's Ashes does not have a female protagonist. Or is that not what we are doing?


message 8: by Darby (new)

Darby | 2 comments "whichwaydidshego?"

You are correct! Angela's Ashes is just such a great memoir I couldn't help myself.

Okay, to make up for it, here is another pretty good (and hard to put down!) memoir with a female protagonist:

"Falling Leaves" by Adeline Yen Mah.


message 9: by Mary (new)

Mary (maryarussell) Personal History by Katharine Graham was a really interesting book and few female protagonists are as tough as the woman who took on the boys club of the Washington Post.


message 10: by Michaela (last edited Oct 19, 2008 02:12AM) (new)

Michaela Wood | 2 comments "Elizabeth and MAry: Cousins, Rivals, Queens" by Jane Dunn, a book of exchanged letters, developing political vs. personal relationship, and biography of the queens, as they relate to each other

"The Brontës" Juliet Barker - best Bronte book. very interesting and well-researched

"Desert Flower" Waris Dirie, memoir of a sudenese refugee and FGM survivor turned British Supermodel!

"Don't let"s go to the Dogs Tonight" by Alexandra Fuller - an african childhood


message 11: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn | 5 comments While I haven't read all of them, the letters between Abigail and John Adams are exquisite and very powerful! What an amazing woman--and, thank goodness, able to exercise her intellect since she married a husband who respected her mind.

My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams

The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family: 1762-1784

The Letters of John and Abigail Adams


message 12: by Katri (last edited Feb 25, 2009 02:53AM) (new)

Katri (Valancy) | 4 comments Anybody interested in unique, intelligent, strong-willed women should check out the Empress Elisabeth of Austria (1837-1898). The biography of her I would recommend the most is Brigitte Hamann's The Reluctant Empress. Another good one is Joan Haslip's The Lonely Empress: Elizabeth of Austria.

Elisabeth was not always an admirable person, so if you're only looking for a heroine this is maybe not for you, but then, I think everyone is flawed and Elisabeth was most certainly an interesting personality. She was a freedom-loving soul with an artistic temperament who was married young to the Emperor of Austria and discovered that she hated the stifling atmosphere of the court and the duties of an Empress. And so she fled from them, travelling all over and spending her time riding and writing poetry, or if she had to stay in the court in Vienna she was frequently unhappy there. She engaged in quite a battle of wills against both her mother-in-love and her husband to be able to decide about her own life, instead of have it decided for her by others. Somehow she never seemed to be able to be happy, so her story is sometimes a little depressing. But I find her a fascinating example of a woman who wanted to decide her own life in a time when it was not allowed for woman, and who made her own mistakes and her own triumphs, instead of just being the victim of others.

I'm also currently reading the selected journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author of the Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon books. She was a very intelligent and interesting woman who documented her own life, thoughts and emotions throughout all the upheavals of her life. She is really a very unique person as well, and her writing style is wonderful, so the journals are really enjoyable to read. I've recently finished Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery : Volume I: 1889-1910 and am now reading The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery : Volume II: 1910-1921.

Kathryn: I've also read some of the correspondence between John and Abigail Adams. I keep meaning to get back to it, Abigail seems like someone worth learning more about!


message 13: by Charity (new)

Charity | 3 comments Prozac Nation and More, Now, Again both by Elizabeth Wurtzel about her depression as a teen and then about her addiction to pills(ritalin and cocaine)--respectively. Excellent reads!!

The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler (is that considered a memoir?) Awesome book!!!!


message 14: by Nicole (new)

Nicole (gardengallivant) | 8 comments "Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA"
A balanced and complete review of the life of a woman who has been ignored, maligned, or offered sycophant worship for her role in the early nucleic acid research. Only a few of her closest coworkers seem to have known enough about her to offer clear insight and to have kept to that image in subsequent years until this biography.
The message of the book is that she was mistreated and it is fair that Rosalind Franklin be adequately acknowledged for her contributions. All of her work not just the two years at Kings. Further, the author suggests that placing her on a pedestal as representing all women suffering unfair employment in the sciences is not helping women still struggling with unequal treatment. Recognition and fair treatment is desirable but not excessive adulation.
Maddox qualifies the imbalanced biographic work previously published. Watson's somewhat misogynistic self justification in his book "The Double Helix"and Sayre's overly partial view in "Rosalind Franklin & DNA" written to counter Watson's book.


message 15: by Nicole (new)

Nicole (gardengallivant) | 8 comments The Cure for Anything Is Salt Water: How I Threw My Life Overboard and Found Happiness at Sea
The brief biography of a woman's approach to becoming a sailor, perhaps to suit her nickname, Mare. Having been employed as an editor for many years in several locations she found it time to begin anew with a home on a boat. A steel hulled trawler was her choice. To overcome a deficit of experience Mare enrolled in an accelerated course in Florida coincidentally co-located near the boat she was buying. Surviving the traumas of the nine week course she and a fellow graduate sail the newly christened Bosanova up the Atlantic coast.
Here begins the best part of the story, where Mare interweaves more of her historic details with the daily difficulties and stringent order required to maneuver a 30 ton boat in both close quarters of a marina and in the storm torn open seas of the Atlantic in spring.
The most telling poignancies come with the coast guards periodic announcements of another persons disaster at sea while cruising safely nearby. The sea is a place that compels strict adherence to an orderly ship and observance of safety measures no matter how petty and annoying at other times, for when needed they must fall promptly to hand. The sea offers no pause switch from a convenient remote control.
This brief travel segment relates the best and the frightening worst of a journey by water and makes the book well worth reading. The end is a bit tacked on of a personal nature only indirectly concerned with the now dry docked boat. Her fellow traveler, John, is left out of the tales end as are all previously detailed people so intimately involved in passing her course at Charles F. Chapman School of Seamanship. She hints at stories with her grand mother but drops that tale also. Many stories are begun but not continued. There is a lack consistency in the adventure's resolution, not even the Bosanova herself is given a final explicit birth after being dry docked. In all a weak, disorganized ending, sort of like life, but still not satisfying in a book.


message 16: by Kristine (new)

Kristine (kristine_a) I second The Glass Castle - J. Walls


message 17: by Elena (last edited Sep 06, 2009 05:57AM) (new)

Elena | 1 comments I LOVE memoirs/autobiographies by women!

The Wheel of Life: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Elizabeth Kubler Ross - An Her autobiographyy is a truly amazing journey, starting from her austere childhood, moving to her work as a MASH nurse during WW II!, to her time at Bellvue Hospital in NYC and beyond. Filled with incredible moments. What a lady!!

Grace: A memoir - Mary Cartledge-Hayes
Poignant book chronicling Mary's becoming a minister in the conservative South while her husband encounters bone cancer. Beautifully written.

WIthout A Map - Meredith Hall


Tales of a Female Nomad - Rita Golden Gelman
Wonderfully inspiring travel memoir from a 50+ year old woman who divorces her husband and leaves the upscale Hollywood social life for an incomparable life filled with adventure, permanently on the road. SHe starts with Mexico and then spends time in several other countries before spending an extended period of her life in Bali. She truly becomes one with the places and people where she is living and has a compassionate understanding and respect for the beauty of culture.
Wonderful!!!

Kira Salak -Kira is the author of several adventure travel memoirs which are incredibly written -including The Cruelest Journey and Four Corners
Kira is an incredibly brave solo adventure traveler who is drawn to remote areas for travel and has encountered and survived some dangerous situations.

I also loved Mary Karr, J. Walls, Haven Kimmel, and sooo many more!

That's all for now, though. lol


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