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!