Daring Women: Writers

Updated: April 2, 2021

This list of novels, poetry, essays and biographies represents a very small number of works written by women throughout the centuries. A Celebration of Women Writers provides an overview of writing by women going back to 3000 B.C. 

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World
Shafak, Elif.
Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, master storyteller Elif Shafak's deliriously melodic and beautifully written novel chronicles the life of an Istanbul streetwalker, Leila Tequila, as it unfolds during the 10 plus minutes her brain remains in a conscious state, after she is murdered and dumped in a trash bin. For the next 10 minutes and 38 seconds, we witness her poignant and often humorous memories from birth to adulthood, sketching the colorful life of her five close friends, and chronicling a story of friendship and love within the confines of a rigid, patriarchal society where repressive politics and societal mores crush and stifle spirits, both tender and strong. An elegy to Istanbul, an ancient and modern city, with all its ugliness and splendor, and to the enduring resilience of spirit and humanity.

After Kathy Acker : a literary biography
Kraus, Chris,
Call Number: 810.92 A182Kr

The first authorized biography of poet, artist, feminist, scholar, cult figure, Kathy Acker, written by Chris Kraus. Kraus and Acker, although not close to each other, have shared friends, lovers, and artistic circles. In Kraus’s words, she began writing about Acker “through the distance, but with this incredible frisson of feeling that often I could write “I” instead of “she.” 

After the divorce
Deledda, Grazia, 1871-1936.
Call Number: Ed.a

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1926 Grazia Deledda "for her idealistically inspired writings which with plastic clarity picture the life on her native island and with depth and sympathy deal with human problems in general"

An American sunrise : poems
Harjo, Joy,
Call Number: 811 H2816-8

Joy Harjo, first Native American Poet Laureate of the United States, reflects on returning to her native tribal land, and the past history of her people being forcibly removed from their homeland.

Bad feminist : essays
Gay, Roxane,
Call Number: 301.412 G2855
Being a feminist isn’t about being a perfect, platonic ideal of womanhood. Instead, Roxane Gay writes a series of essays about a feminism that acknowledges (and frequently examines) the individual pieces of her life and her experiences, allowing for inconsistencies and rough edges that grind against other aspects of her life and identity. The result is an autobiographical exploration of life and culture that is honest, compelling, and very, very funny.

Black dove : mama, mi'jo, and me
Castillo, Ana,
Call Number: 814 C352

Ana Castillo, novelist, poet, journalist, and social critic, recounts the challenges, joys in this collection of personal essays.

Bobcat & other stories
Lee, Rebecca, 1967-

These short stories are insightful, funny, poigant tales of modern relationships.  Rebecca Lee's characters falter, stumble, are frequently blind sided, sometimes recover, but move on through life. 

Bonjour Tristesse
Sagan, Francoise, 1935-2004.
Call Number: Ed.b

This French coming-of-age story written in the 1950s was considered scandalous when it came out. With the author barely older than her teenage protagonist, the story ably explores emotional matters and life-changing experiences. Translated from French.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
Richardson, Kim Michele

Two stories that have been overlooked in most fiction and history are: the story of the blue people of Kentucky and the Pack Horse Librarians of the 1930s, both are incredible examples of the resilience to triumph over difficult circumstances. This novel is a love letter to the women who daily risked their lives delivering books and other reading materials to those far removed from the traditional realms of “book learning.” It is also an ode to a group of people who were subjected to terrible treatment and crimes because of the color of their skin. This is a compelling and enjoyable read. 

Caspian rain : a novel
Nahai, Gina Barkhordar.

Though both of Yaas' Iranian parents are Jewish, her father's upper class family is contemptuous of her mother, who comes from an impoverished community of South Tehran.  But the real challenge to her parents' marriage is her father's love for his beautiful Muslim mistress.  Hoping to spare her daughter the misery she endures, Yaas' mother expects her daughter to excel academically, but something prevents Yaas from grasping the basics of learning.

Changing my mind : occasional essays
Smith, Zadie.
Call Number: 824 S664
The nimble-minded Smith turns her powers of observation towards a variety of subjects, including Katharine Hepburn, Barack Obama, E.M. Forster, terrible movies, Fawlty Towers, and the craft of writing.

The complete stories
Lispector, Clarice,

A complete collection, for the first time in English, of Clarice Lispector's short stories. She is one of South America's recently "discovered" major writers.

Country girl : a memoir
O'Brien, Edna.
Call Number: 823 O13Ob-1

Irish novelist, short story writer, and literary grande dame, Edna O'Brien looks back on her life.  She is unsparing and unsentimental in reminscences about convent schooling, marriages, divorces, the wild sixties in London, the brouhaha, banning and burning of her first novel Country Girls which later became a modern classic. O'Brien may have been born in the country but she had precociously sophisticated yearnings which became realities. 

Daughter of fortune : a novel
Allende, Isabel.

Pregnant and abandoned in Chile by her lover who is lured by the California gold rush, sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Sommers heads to San Francisco herself.  Disguised as a boy, she spends four years searching for the man she thought she loved, all the while being guided and cared for by Tao Chi-en, a Chinese healer.This is a sweeping historical novel that follows the adventures of its heroine from her childhood in Chile to the gold fields of California as she searches for her first love.


The daughter of time
Tey, Josephine, 1896 or 7-1952.
Call Number: M Ed.b
While in the hospital recovering from a fall, a bored Inspector Alan Grant turns his mental energies to the legend of Richard III, the so-called "hunchback king" widely assumed to have murdered his young nephews in order to gain the throne. Studying a portrait of Richard, Grant becomes convinced that he was not guilty and sets out to discover who really killed the princes.

Death comes for the archbishop
Cather, Willa, 1873-1947.
Call Number: Ed.c

A spare narrative that spans the life of the missionary bishop to the territory of New Mexico.  It provides snapshot moments of a deeply contemplative life while inducing a yearning to explore the geography and see the sights of the southwest desert.

The Declaration of the Rights of Women: The Original Manifesto for Justice, Equality, & Freedom
Gouges, Olympe de, 1748-1793,
Call Number: 301.412 G691

Olympe de Gouges was a French playwright and political activist during the late 18th century. This revolutionary woman contributed to the rights of women, and all human beings, through her writing and her life. She was sentenced to death by guillotine because she criticized the Revolutionary government and for associating with Griondists. This book has her original manifesto, other references, and illustrations by a gathering of artists.

East wind, west wind
Buck, Pearl S. 1892-1973.
Call Number: Ed.c

In Peal S. Buck's first published novel, a young Chinese woman relates the conflicts that occur when she is married to a man who has been educated in the United States. As her own situation gradually resolves, her older brother, also having gone to the west to study, marries an American woman despite his almost lifelong betrothal to the daughter of his father's friend. The resulting clash between cultures and generations has serious repercussions. A beautifully told story that sheds light on ancient traditions and the difficulties in breaking from them.

The emissary
Tawada, Yoko, 1960-

In this dystopian novel, award-winning author, Toko Tawada portrays the after-effects of an unnamed, irreversible disaster that takes place in Japan. The novel is a riff on a post-Chernobyl, post-Fukushima world, which turns disaster on its head by way of Mumei, a child who will lead the way to something better.

Evening in paradise : more stories
Berlin, Lucia,

Berlin's short stories speak to everyone, with credible characters and plots.  Her prose and characterizations are crystalline, witty and hilarious, even when writing about some of our less worthy human activities.

Everything I never told you
Ng, Celeste.

This slender debut novel is deceptively quiet and elegantly restrained on the surface, but packs a knock-out punch. The story of how and why teenager Lydia Lee, the beautiful, brilliant, best-loved child of a 1970's mixed-race Ohio family, meets her shocking death is much more than just a Midwestern mystery. Within her very specific rendering of one family's tragedy, author Celeste Ng illuminates America's poisonous history of racism, sexism, and homophobia, but never at the expense of a suspenseful plot and a compellingly original cast of characters.

Everything inside : stories
Danticat, Edwidge, 1969-

Edwige Danticat's short stories are about pain, grief and loss, and reflect her Haitian-American experience. Expressed in lyrical language, she explores the human condition in all of its complexity.

Frantumaglia : a writer's journey
Ferrante, Elena,
Call Number: 853 F373F

The very private writer Elena Ferrante presents one aspect of her life, as a writer. She does so in bits and pieces which is what frantumaglia means in Neapolitan dialect. In the current world with the need to know everything about everyone, there was conjecture about her true identity. As for this reader--I want more exceptional novels from Elena Ferrante, whoever she may be.

Gabriela Mistral, the poet and her work. Translated by Helene Masslo Anderson.
Arce de Vazquez, Margot.
Call Number: 861 M678Ar


The Nobel Prize in Literature 1945 "for her lyric poetry which, inspired by powerful emotions, has made her name a symbol of the idealistic aspirations of the entire Latin American world"

Go, Went, Gone
Jenny Erpenbeck

Retired and living in modern cultured Berlin, a former classics professor ponders what to do with his time. When he confronts the African refugee crisis in his city, the professor must deal with his emotional reactions, and a call for action. His academic analysis and training are of little use. Erpenbeck has created layers of tragic stories about the experience of displaced people, and the often misplaced and futile attempts to assist them.

The god of small things
Roy, Arundhati.
This novel is a stylistically challenging Booker Prize Winner that depicts a series of events in a family in India. It is reminiscent of Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury.

A good man is hard to find : and other stories
O'Connor, Flannery.
Call Number: Ed.a
O'Connor's flair for the gothic and grotesque, her distinctive humor, and her religious themes make her short fiction unmistakable and unforgettable.

Green wheat : a novel
Colette, 1873-1954.

French writer Colette tenderly explores adolescent love between two childhood friends, Phil and Vinca.

A handful of earth, a handful of sky : the world of octavia butler
George, Lynell.
Call Number: 813 B986Ge

A book that is as unusual in format and style as is its subject, Octavia Butler. This work is based on the research done by Lynell George, who had access to Butler's archive of more than 300 boxes, housed at The Huntington Library. Butler saved so much, and there are clues to the history of her life, how she created, and what it was like to be a woman of color during her time. The timing of this book's publishing is a match for the incredible work being done at the Los Angeles Public Library's Octavia Lab.

The hottest dishes of the Tartar cuisine
Bronsky, Alina, 1978-
One of Publishers Weekly's best fiction works for 2011, this is a darkly comic story of three generations of women who survive not only the privations of life in the former Soviet Union, but survive and thrive despite the theatrics of the acerbic, outrageous, and dictatorial matriarch, Rosa.

The house at Belle Fontaine : stories
Tuck, Lily, 1938-

These short stories are minimalist in style, characterization and plot, and it is through the dialogue and action that Lily Tuck allows her characters to reveal the complexities of modern life.

Hurricane season
Melchor, Fernanda, 1982-

A small town so isolated there could be a wall around it. There is an insularity that has created a world where truth is based on suspicion, rumor and myths. Is there a way out if there is no hope? Told in brilliant, raw prose, this is a town that could be anywhere in the world.

I am the beggar of the world : landays from contemporary Afghanistan
Call Number: 891.58108 I115

A surprising book from women who are oppressed in many ways, but their spirits, heart-felt desires (secular, sensual, and religious),and thoughts are not.

In extremis : the life and death of the war correspondent Marie Colvin
Hilsum, Lindsey,
Call Number: 071.092 C727Hi

War correspondent Lynsey Hillsum's biography and memoir is about fellow war correspondent, Marie Colvin who was killed in Holms Syria in 2012. Colvin, the subject of a recent movie, was a leading war journalist who covered many international areas of war and conflict, some places where male journalists would not dare to go.  Colvin was brave and determined to be where the action was, so as to report first-hand what was taking place.

The Joy Luck Club
Tan, Amy.
Call Number: Ed.f

In 1949, four Chinese women--drawn together by the shadow of their past--begin meeting in San Francisco to play mah jong, invest in stocks and "say" stories. They call their gathering the Joy Luck Club--and forge a relationship that binds them for more than three decades.

Like the singing coming off the drums : love poems
Sanchez, Sonia, 1934-
Call Number: 811 S2115-10
Sanchez's steamy and lyrical collection also includes platonic love poems for Ella Fitzgerald, Tupac Shakur, and Gwendolyn Brooks.

The love of a good woman : stories
Munro, Alice.
Munro uncovers the secrets, lies, and mysteries of small town life in rural Canada in this masterful collection.

Majestic nights : love poems of Bengali women
Call Number: 891.408 M2335
Along with poems of romantic love, this collection also includes a surprising number of poems expressing a darker, more cynical attitude. "The heart is not a tulip/to bloom on its own in answer to summer." -Dilara Hashem

Make me rain : poems & prose
Giovanni, Nikki
Call Number: 811 G5115-16

Poet and writer Nikki Giovanni's insights and words are as sharp and precise as ever. She speaks truth not only to power, but to all of us, and in language that is clear, bold and cannot be misconstrued.

The Measure of Her Powers: An M.F.K. Fisher Reader
Fisher, M. F. K. (Mary Frances Kennedy), 1908-1992.
Call Number: 641.092 F535-6

W. H. Auden said, “I do not know of anyone in the States who writes better prose.” M. F. K. Fisher wrote about food, as a subject and as a symbol of life, and was a unique stylist.

The member of the wedding
McCullers, Carson, 1917-1967.
Call Number: Ed.a

12-year-old Frankie Addams feels alienated and lost, and as she struggles with her own identity assumes the name of F. Jasmine. Set in a small southern town, in the 1940s, Frankie's only close relationships are with her 6-year-old cousin, John Henry, and her family's African-American housekeeper, Berenice.

A Mercy
Morrison, Toni

This story follows Florens, who is sold away from her mother, Jacob, the man who buys Florens, and the women in his life, and provides a look at all the forces impinging on the lives of women in the late 1600s in America.

My brilliant career
Franklin, Miles, 1879-1954.
Call Number: Ed.b

Miles Franklin's autobiographical novel is about her life as a young girl, growing up in the wilds of Australia's outback, all the while yearning for a life of art, music and literature.

My Brilliant Friend
Ferrante, Elena.

This work of literary fiction is the story of two Neapolitan friends, Elena and Lila, and through the lens of their lives, it is also the story of the transformation of a neighborhood, a city, and a country. Translated from Italian.

No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters
Le Guin, Ursula K., 1929-
Call Number: 814 L521

Best known for science fiction and fantasy novels, Ursula Le Guin was a master essay writer. Direct, acerbic, witty and funny are attributes of her writing.

Other people's houses.
Segal, Lore Groszmann.

Lore Segal’s semi-autobiographical novel is about her life as a refugee Jewish child evacuated from Austria during World War II to the relative safety of England. It is a poignant and candid reflection about a child’s displacement, and how it feels to be thrust into new surroundings, without the immediate comfort and solace of one’s own family.

Parable Of The Sower
Butler, Octavia E.
Call Number: SF Ed.a

When unattended environmental and economic crises lead to social chaos, not even gated communities are safe. In a night of fire and death Lauren Olamina, a minister's young daughter, loses her family and home and ventures out into the unprotected American landscape. But what begins as a flight for survival soon leads to something much more: a startling vision of human destiny... and the birth of a new faith.


The pillow book of Sei Shōnagon. Translated and edited by Ivan Morris.
Sei Shōnagon, approximately 967-
Call Number: 895.28 S457-2

Lyrical, insightful, witty writing from the diary of a lady at the Imperial Court, 10th century Japan.

Please look after mom : a novel
Sin, Ky?ng-suk.
An aging woman goes missing, spurring stories of love and guilt from her family in this South Korean novel.  An interesting choice of voice and a rich level of detail help bring depth to this universal human story. A mother's disappearance in a Seoul subway station elicits reflection on the part of her children, husband and the mother herself. The children and father suddenly realize how they have taken her for granted, and reminisce about the sacrifices made by the mother.

Poems, new and collected, 1957-1997
Szymborska, Wisława.
Call Number: 891.851 S999-3

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1996 "for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality"

The Pomegranate Lady and her sons : selected stories
Taraqqī, Gulī.

In this superb collection of short stories Iranian writer Goli Taraghi portrays what it is like for individuals to be deracinated within their own country, or exiled as the result of political change; for them to have an eternal longing to go home to a place that will never be the same, except in their memories and hearts. The various characters are portrayed in their full humanity which Taraghi does in a cheeky, humorous style.  The characters and perspective are Iranian, but the stories are universal in appeal.

November 5, 2013, the author was a guest at ALOUD.

A portrait of the self as nation : new and selected poems
Chin, Marilyn,
Call Number: 811 C5386-4

 Marilyn Chin's poetry is direct, asssertive and examines her own identity as a woman and Asian American. Never self-deprecating, she weaves humor, earthiness, and candor about origins, family and love.

The river.
Godden, Rumer, 1907-1998.

The story is set in Bengal, India, during the 1940s, where Harriet's English family lives. She is a dreamy adolescent girl who loves to write and is highly susceptible to feelings of romantic love, while the immediate world grounds her reality.  There is also the beautiful Jean Renoir movie. The novel is available on e-Media.

Short stories by Latin American women : the magic and the real
Call Number: SS Ed.a

A fine selection of thirty-one women writers from fourteen Latin American countries. This collection brings awareness to writers whose works may not be well-known and deserve attention.

Silvina Ocampo
Ocampo, Silvina.
Call Number: 861 O15

The first English translation of Ocampo's poetry brings attention to the clear and lyrical work of this highly regarded Latino writer.

Sing, Unburied, Sing
Ward, Jesmyn

Thirteen-year-old Jojo lives in southern Mississippi with his baby sister, their neglectful mother, their grandfather, and their dying grandmother. When their mother Leonie gets a call that their father Michael is being released from prison, they embark on a road trip full of revelations that may harm, as much as heal.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays
Didion, Joan.
Call Number: 973.92 D556 2008

The Scheherazade of the essay, as she lures you in with that first sentence, and then takes you places never imagined. She melds analysis and emotional reactions, which takes time and talent to do well.

Snow White Learns Witchcraft: Stories and Poems
Goss, Theodora

A fascinating, heart-warming and bone-chilling collection of stories, in prose or poetry, of how women survive and thrive, even in the most difficult circumstances. These tales will leave you breathless, whether from anticipation, shock, wonder, or laughing out loud, and are the result of a master writer applying her skills to material that she loves. It is a MUST read for those drawn to our ancient stories.

The story of my teeth
Luiselli, Valeria, 1983-

One of Mexico's exceptional new writers (Faces in the crowd) Luiselli has created a humorous and challenging novel which combines literary references with the story of Highway, a combination of fabulist and soothsayer, who claims to possess the teeth of various famous people.


A student of history : a novel
Revoyr, Nina, 1969-

Nina Revoyr admirably captures the idiosyncrasies of Los Angeles and its history through the character of Rick Nagano, a USC graduate student, whose desirable job has unforeseen drawbacks. While working for Mrs. W., matriarchal heir to an oil fortune, he has access to her personal journals and files that reveal an unknown history of the city. While assisting Fiona Morgan, a young socialite, Nagano learns more about the history of Los Angeles, which is interesting, but also proves to be more damaging to everyone.

Tell the wolves I'm home : a novel
Brunt, Carol Rifka
Call Number: F

After her beloved uncle dies of AIDS-related complications, fourteen-year-old June Elbus strikes up a secret friendship with his boyfriend in this heartbreaking coming of age story, set during the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.

The ten loves of Nishino /
Kawakami, Hiromi, 1958-

This enigmatic story is told through the voices of ten women about one man, Nishino, who has loved all of them, in one way or another.

*Winner of the 2020 Pen Translation Award

Their eyes were watching God
Hurston, Zora Neale.
Call Number: Ed.f

When Janie, at sixteen, is caught kissing shiftless Johnny Taylor, her grandmother swiftly marries her off to an old man with sixty acres. Janie endures two stifling marriages before meeting the man of her dreams, who offers not diamonds, but a packet of flowering seeds.

To kill a mockingbird
Lee, Harper.
Call Number: Ed.h

The explosion of racial hate in an Alabama town is viewed by a little girl whose father defends a black man accused of rape.


A tree grows in Brooklyn
Smith, Betty, 1896-1972.
Call Number: Ed.g
The wonderful tale of Francie Nolan, a bookish little girl who was born in 1900 and grew up with the century in a poor Brooklyn tenement. Sensitive portrayals of her hard-working mother, alcoholic father and colorful aunts are offset by budding writer Francie's own deft observations of her surroundings and the way both she and they change over time. A nostalgic yet clear-eyed snapshot of America in the early twentieth century. Highly recommended.

Twenty fragments of a ravenous youth
Guo, Xiaolu, 1973-
Fenfang Wang is the country-girl hick who leaves her family's sweet-potato farm seeking adventure, some money, and a better way of life in modern Beijing.

An unconditional freedom
Cole, Alyssa,

Daniel Cumberland was a free Black man studying law in Massachusetts when he was kidnapped and sold as a slave in the South. Unable to settle into his old life after a friend buys his freedom, he becomes a Loyal League operative, fighting undercover. Janeta Sanchez is a proud Cubana living with her father in Florida until he is arrested, and she believes that she can secure his release by gathering information for the Confederacy from the Loyal League. This unlikely pair is forced to work as a team, and their prickly relationship is complicated by their growing attraction to each other.


The Undocumented Americans
Cornejo Villavicencio, Karla
Call Number: 325.1 C813

Karla Cornejo Villavicenco was one of the first undocumented immigrants to graduate from Harvard. She writes lovingly about her family, friends and otherts who have come to this country in search of the American Dream, trying to escape from violence and hopelessness in other countries. With her personal knowledge and experience about the sacrifices that are made, she writes about the mental and physical damage that undocumented people endure for a better life and future.

An untamed state
Gay, Roxane,

 Roxane Gay levels a breath-taking punch with the story of Mireille Duval Jameson,  who is kidnapped and held for ransom where she is beaten, raped and mentally abused.  When released, she is in severe shock and suffering from PTSD, all of which brings up unspoken family issues.  Without sensationalism and with great truth, the novel is a response to the notion of closure and complete healing for victims of PTSD, but also about a type of healing that allows a victim to have a life.  A therapist tells her that she will get better, but she will never get over what happened.

The Virago story : assessing the impact of a feminist publishing phenomenon /
Riley, Catherine E.
Call Number: 085.442 V813Ri

The history of a feminist publishing firm that came into existence during the 1970s, and still exists today, despite overcoming financial challenges and some opposing viewpoints among its founding members.

Voyage of the sable Venus : and other poems
Lewis, Robin Coste,
Call Number: 811 L675

Robin Coste Lewis, Los Angeles Poet Laureate, uses words, metre, rhyme and format to examine the artistic representation of black female enslavement through the millenniums.

Why this world : a biography of Clarice Lispector
Moser, Benjamin.
Call Number: 869.3 L771Mo

Brazilian novelist, short story writer, and journalist, Clarice Lispector is well known for her innovative style of writing. Born in the Ukraine in 1920, she was brought to Brazil after World War I. Beautiful and brainy, her life was peripatetic and turbulent. This biography is based upon years of reserach and brings attention to a major writer.

La Plante, Lynda,

After their husbands are killed in a failed robbery heist, three widows take control of their lives when thugs threaten the life of one of them. Filled with fear and gumption they plan to carry out a successful robbery.

Available on e-Media

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Strayed, Cheryl, 1968-
Call Number: 813 S913S

Shattered at age 26 by her mother's death and the end of her marriage, Strayed did something way out of the realm of her experience--she took a solo 1,100-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail.

A wizard of Earthsea
Le Guin, Ursula K., 1929-2018.
Call Number: x Ed.d
First in a renowned trilogy, this inventive volume traces the life of a young boy through his apprenticeship as a wizard and as he struggles to deal with a monster spawned by his own pride.

Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories
Cisneros, Sandra.
Call Number: Ed.a

Cisneros chronicles the lives and struggles of women living on both sides of the Tex-Mex border with warmth and humor.

Wuthering Heights
Call Number:
Emily Bronte's only novel, originally published under the pen name of Ellis Bell, has become a classic of English literature despite originally meeting with tepid reviews. The story takes place on the Yorkshire moors and concerns the doomed love affair between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff. Like her sisters Anne and Charlotte, Emily died young at age 30.

You know when the men are gone
Fallon, Siobhan.
As one war winds down and another seems to go on forever, this book is especially poignant in its description of those who wait back home for their loved ones in the service.