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Search tags: great-books-by-women
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review 2018-06-19 17:15
Dora Doralina / Rachel de Queiroz
Dora Doralina - Rachel de Queiroz

"What kills you today is forgotten tomorrow. I don't know if this is true or false because all that's real for me is remembrance." In her old age, Dora reflects on the major influences in her life: her mother, her career in the theater, and her one true love. Set in Brazil in the early part of the century, Dora, Doralina is a story about power. Through her fierce resistance to her mother and her later life as a working woman and widow, Doralina attempts to define herself in a time and culture which places formidable obstacles before women. Married off by her mother to a man she does not love, told what to wear and eat, Dora's reclaiming of herself is full of both discovery and rage. For her, independence is the right to protect herself and make her own choices. From a life confined by religion and "respectability," even her passionate attachment to a hard-drinking smuggler contains an act of free will previously unavailable to her. Dora, Doralina is an intimate, realistic, and vivid glimpse of one woman's struggle for independence, for a life in which she owns her actions, her pleasure, and her pain.

 

I read this book to fill the Q position in my quest to read women authors A-Z in 2018. I will honestly tell you that it is not a novel that I would naturally pick up so I probably didn’t appreciate it as much as someone who regularly reads literary fiction.

This is a character driven story which reads very much like an autobiography. It is basically a window into the world of women in Brazil in the first half of the twentieth century. Brazilian society, as in many societies at the time, is extremely macho and women don’t have all that much latitude.

The book is divided into three sections, representing three stages in the life of our narrator, Dora. The first section is Dora growing up and struggling with the control of her domineering mother. Dora refers to her as Senhora, not mother, and seems to be one of the only people in the household who longs for freedom. Dora ends up in a marriage which was more-or-less engineered by Senhora, and while she doesn’t mind her husband, she’s not desperately fond of him either. When he is killed, Dora takes a page from her mother’s playbook and uses her widowhood to give herself more freedom in the world.

The second section is Dora’s adventures in the world outside her mother’s farm. She finds employment and eventually ends up on stage, despite her shyness. She is both fiercely independent and highly reliant on her friends in the acting company, a duality that she freely acknowledges. And it is during her travels with the company that she meets the love of her life.

Part three is her life with The Captain. He reminded me of her first husband in several ways (his drinking, his macho possessiveness) but Dora’s feelings for him make the marriage an altogether different experience from the first.

Documenting women’s lives is an important pursuit, filling in the blanks of previously ignored reality. The novel also shows the particular barriers that many South American women are up against culturally.

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text 2018-06-18 15:18
Reading progress update: I've read 86 out of 281 pages.
Dora Doralina - Rachel de Queiroz

 

And now for something completely different.

 

This Brazilian author gives us a window into women's lives in the early 20th century.  Published in 1975, when the feminist movement in North America was really getting going, it is an exploration of a Brazilian woman's search for independence and the right to run her own life.

 

 

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review 2018-03-25 22:47
500 Great Books By Women - We should update this one!
500 Great Books By Women - Erica Bauermeister,Holly Smith,Jesse Larsen

A nice little resource. Sadly it was only published once, so it's way out of date and ends with a few books published in 1993.

 

Divided by theme, there are blurbs from a panel of contributors (all female) about 500 books: everything from Autobiography/memoir to oral histories, novels and nonfiction.

 

There are cross-referenced indices and lists at the beginning of every theme. Included are lists of books by women of color living in the US and a "list of some books about lesbian and gay people." Clearly time has not been kind to this particular listing, and that's the issue. The areas covered are way too broad, the 1990s overrepresented and marginalized people are just barely creeping into consciousness in 1993-94.

 

I truly wish someone would update this particular reference, but until then it's handy for finding books and authors I may otherwise have missed.

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review 2018-01-05 18:49
The House on Mango Street / Sandra Cisneros
The House on Mango Street - Sandra Cisneros

I started reading The House on Mango Street without really researching anything about it. I could really tell that the author is also a poet—the beauty of the language and the descriptions was stunning. If you are looking for something plot-driven, this is not your book. But if you are willing to savour each chapter/vignette for what it is, you will enjoy this artistic little volume.

Each chapter is like a perfectly cut and polished gemstone, offering the reader a peek into the Chicago of the 1950s and 1960s. What I really related to was the naiveté of Esperanza—at her age, I was similarly clueless about the allure of boys (or what one would actually do with a boy that parents were always worrying about). Despite that lack of knowledge, I struggled against societal expectations, just as Esperanza did. I too watched my mother struggle to express her artistic self, while trying to juggle life as a mother and a wife and I learned the same lesson: support yourself so that you can do the things you need to do in life.

We are also allowed a look into the world of immigrant Mexican families of that time—the strictness of the fathers, the dilapidated housing, the restraint on expectations. The importance of family. The reliance on community.

Esperanza gets her name for a reason—there is Hope that a true artistic life can be achieved. And if this book is any indication, Sandra Cisneros has certainly met those expectations.

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review 2017-10-13 16:17
The Diary of a Young Girl / Anne Frank
The Diary of a Young Girl - B.M. Mooyaart,Eleanor Roosevelt,Anne Frank

I finally got around to reading this heart-warming and heart-wrenching document.  I attempted it as a much younger person and didn’t get very far, perhaps because I was a teenager myself with my own angst to deal with. 

 

There’s no doubt that Anne was right about her own writing abilities.  If she had lived, I think she definitely had a chance to become a significant author.  She could have edited her own diaries to begin with and perhaps written more about the Jewish experience during WWII.

 

I think her father (the only surviving member of those concealed in the Annex) was a brave man to allow her journals to be published.  He and his wife do not always come out of them looking good.  However, we, as readers, are continually reminded that the people confined in this small space are bound to clash with one another repeatedly.  Imagine having no space to truly call your own, having to share cooking & food supplies, not having easy access to a toilet and not being able to flush during certain hours, and having to be quiet during the workday so as not to alert the employees working below them!  Prisoners in jails have better living conditions!

 

I am also impressed by the courageous Dutch folk who hid their Jewish friends and kept them supplied with the necessities of life for so long.  That’s a big commitment and they fulfilled it for two years with very few glitches (health problems for all of them sometimes made for erratic food delivery).  How many of us would have the fortitude and the bravery to attempt such a feat?

 

The saddest part of the book was definitely the afterword—Anne’s last entry is absolutely ordinary (in an extraordinary circumstance) and then they are betrayed and sent to concentration camps.  They had lasted so long and the end of the war was just a year away (although they had no way to know that).  I was left with the melancholy question of what might have been.

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