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Daring Women: Writers

Updated: March 30, 2024

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. 

Book cover for 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World
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.

Book cover for After Kathy Acker : a literary biography
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.” 

Book cover for An American sunrise : poems
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.

Book cover for Bad feminist : essays
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.

Book cover for Belle Greene
Belle Greene
Lapierre, Alexandra

Belle da Costa Greene was a rare books librarian, best known for developing the personal library of J. P. Morgan. She was beautiful, intellectually brilliant, loaded with charisma, and knew what she wanted out of life. Born to Black parents, she could and easily did pass for white. This illuminating, compelling fictionalized biography brings to life the times in which she lived, the early part of the 1900s, and her life.

Book cover for Bobcat & other stories
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. 

Book cover for Changing my mind : occasional essays
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.

Book cover for The complete stories
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.

Book cover for The Declaration of the Rights of Women: The Original Manifesto for Justice, Equality, & Freedom
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.

Book cover for Evening in Paradise: More Stories
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.

Book cover for Everything I never told you
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.

Book cover for Everything inside : stories
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.

Book cover for Frantumaglia : a writer's journey
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.

Book cover for Go, Went, Gone
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.

Book cover for A Handful of Earth, a Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia Butler
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.

Book cover for The house at Belle Fontaine : stories
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.

Book cover for Hurricane season
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.

Book cover for I am the beggar of the world : landays from contemporary Afghanistan
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.

Book cover for In extremis : the life and death of the war correspondent Marie Colvin
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.

Book cover for The love of a good woman : stories
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.

Book cover for The Measure of Her Powers: An M.F.K. Fisher Reader
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.

Book cover for A Mercy
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.

Book cover for My brilliant career
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.

Book cover for My Brilliant Friend
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.

Book cover for No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters
No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters
Le Guin, Ursula K.
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.

Book cover for Piecing Together Los Angeles: An Esther McCoy Reader
Piecing Together Los Angeles: An Esther McCoy Reader
McCoy, Esther
Call Number: 720.910941 M131

Esther McCoy was one of modern architecture's most important critics and writers. She was the first architectural critic to take Los Angeles architecture seriously. This is a new anthology which includes a variety of her work.

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.

Book cover for Please look after mom : a novel
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.

Book cover for Poems, new and collected, 1957-1997
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"

Book cover for The Pomegranate Lady and her sons : selected stories
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.

Book cover for A portrait of the self as nation : new and selected poems
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.

Book cover for Silvina Ocampo
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.

Book cover for The story of my teeth
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.


Book cover for A Student of History
A Student of History
Revoyr, Nina

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.

Book cover for The ten loves of Nishino /
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

Book cover for Twenty fragments of a ravenous youth
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.

Book cover for An Unconditional Freedom
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.


Book cover for The Undocumented Americans
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.

Book cover for An Untamed State
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.

Book cover for The Virago story : assessing the impact of a feminist publishing phenomenon /
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.

Book cover for Voyage of the Sable Venus: And Other Poems
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.

Book cover for Why this world : a biography of Clarice Lispector
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.

Book cover for You know when the men are gone
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.