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[Monday Reading] Vignettes of Women Who Weave Words and Who Stood Their Ground in “Literary Witches” and “She Persisted”

Celebrating fearless, unyielding women who weave enchantment, truth, and beauty around them.


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community. 

These are two beautifully curated vignettes of noteworthy women who have wielded enchantment while astride a broomstick, who were steadfast in their pursuit of truth and justice, and who created much-needed spaces for the younger generation of females to breathe, soar, and simply be who they were meant to be.

She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed The World

Written by: Chelsea Clinton Illustrated by: Alexandra Boiger
Published by: Philomel Books (2017)
ISBN: 1524741728 (ISBN13: 9781524741723). Literary Award: Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Picture Books (2017), Litsy Award for Picture Book (2017). Book was borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

I always say with absolute certainty how books find me at the right time. Here is another clear instance when I have been proven right. I had my initial reservations about the picturebook, primarily because it focuses exclusively on just American women, and I want a more expansive view that encompasses women of the world who persisted. However, I was surprised at how ferociously this book managed to touch my core as a woman, notwithstanding my not being from America.

Each of the women represented here come from different disciplines or professions: from being a journalist to conductor of the underground railroad, from a medical doctor to a Supreme Court Justice.

It is to Chelsea Clinton’s credit that she managed to capture the essence of each woman’s life narrative into a few lines, yet retaining its power and the underlying struggle that prompted each women’s persistence, tenacity, courage.

What really caught my attention, though, were the selected quotes from each women that seem to be speaking to me directly, at this particular point in my life. As the trite adage goes: The Struggle is Real. As a female academic who also happens to be married, and a person of colour who has obtained her PhD degree from what is considered a developing country, and serving in a city-state different from my country of birth for the past ten years – this is not something abstract or hypothetical for me. Not only is the struggle real, it continues up to this day, regardless of how much I have contributed to my field and to society in general. It is simply the way it is.

I was especially taken by the extracted quote from Helen Keller:

One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar. – Helen Keller

Each quote from the women featured in this book shows this admirable and unyielding decision to pursue their truth, regardless of how people perceive it. Too often, there is this impetus amongst institutions to box people into clearly-defined categories, something which I find to be extremely small-minded and confining; it suffocates my free spirit. Then I see this full-page spread:

When anyone tells me I can’t do anything… I’m just not listening anymore. – Florence Griffith Joyner

To that, I say AMEN.

Literary Witches: A Celebration Of Magical Women Writers

Written by: Taisia Kitaiskaia Illustrated by: Katy Horan Foreword by: Pam Grossman
Published by: Seal Press (2017)
ISBN: 1580056733 (ISBN13: 9781580056731). Book was gifted to me. Book photos taken by me.

On occasion, one comes across a book that is so bewitching and so unclassifiable that, as a book blogger, the words that I need to recommend this book to as many people as I possibly could, simply elude me.

This book celebrates Magical Women Writers from Toni Morrison to Anna Akhmatova, from Forugh Farrokhzad to Yumiko Kurahashi. As noted in Pam Grossman’s Foreword:

“… the Witch is arguably the only female archetype that has power on its own terms. She is not defined by anyone else. Wife, sister, mother, virgin, whore – these archetypes draw meaning based on relationships with others. The Witch, however, is a woman who stands entirely on her own. She is more often than not an outsider, and her gift is transformation. She is a change agent, and her work is sparked by speech: an incantation, a naming, a blessing, a curse.

Who is more worthy of this moniker than female writers, who themselves conjure worlds out of words?”

If anything, this book made me wish that I can make a Literary Babaylan series of powerful women writers from Asia or who are in diaspora, written with just the right amount of sizzle sizzle, double double, toil and trouble – quite similar to the subterranean enchantment with which the life narratives of Audre Lorde (Warrior Witch of Otherness, Bodies Electric and Sisterhood), Jamaica Kincaid (Sorceress of Islands, Venom and Histories), and Zora Neale Hurston (Conjurer of Hurricanes, Zombies, and Tall Tales) are written here.

While others may not take to the way these female writers’ life narratives have been depicted, I found it to be utterly FASCINATING. In fact, the otherworldly vignettes honour these women’s ethereal nature and transcendental perception of the world as portrayed through their witchy words.

I also blame this book for how my TBR stack has exploded even more than usual. While a few of the thirty women are familiar to me, I am indebted to this collection for knowing even more female authors that are previously unknown to me such as Mirabai from India; Joy Harjo, a member of the Mvskoke Nation; Yumiko Kurahashi from Japan just to cite a few.

In fact, I am seriously contemplating having a Literary Witches Year in 2019, whereby we will just be reading and featuring female voices throughout the year. I will have to think about this some more. At any rate, here are a few books that I am hoping to find and read, based on this remarkable collection.

Crazy Brave: A Memoir by Joy Harjo, She Had Some Horses: Poems by Joy Harjo, Mirabai: Ecstatic Poems by Robert Bly and Jane Hirshfield.







The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein, Three Lives and Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography Of My Mother by Jamaica Kincaid.







Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid, The Adventures Of Sumiyakist Q by Yumiko Kurahashi, The Woman With The Flying Head And Other Stories by Yumiko Kurahashi.







Extracting The Stone Of Madness: Poems 1962-1972 by Alejandra Pizarnik, A Musical Hell by Alejandra Pizarnik, Almanac Of The Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko.







Eros The Bittersweet by Anne Carson, The Herland Trilogy: Moving The Mountain, Herland, With Her In Ourland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.

Have you read any of these novels yet? Any titles that caught your discerning-reader eye?

#LitWorld2018GB Update: Taisia Kitaiskaia is Russian-American (born in Russia) who currently lives in Texas, USA. Hence, this will be classified as US.

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14 comments on “[Monday Reading] Vignettes of Women Who Weave Words and Who Stood Their Ground in “Literary Witches” and “She Persisted”

  1. “I am seriously contemplating having a Literary Witches Year in 2019, whereby we will just be reading and featuring female voices throughout the year.” — Yessssssssssssss. A+++, absolutely delightful idea

    Liked by 1 person

  2. She Persisted is inspiring. I haven’t read it yet, but She Persisted Around the World has recently been published. I loved that you mentioned that books find you at the right time – books are powerful!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. lindabaie

    Love hearing about both, but that second one is intriguing, Myra. I have a book titled Women of Words (Teacher & Powell) that I purchased a long while ago, partly for a student who was studying a few women authors. But this one, Literary Witches and its precept looks fabulous. I know Joy Harjo somehow? but don’t know the others except by name. I have taught Annie John by Jamaica Kinkaid, a lovely story of adolescent angst/growing up! Thanks for sharing so much today!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oooh, oooh, ooooooh! I want that Literary Witches book!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ah, Lisa beat me to it — was just going to say that I enjoyed She Persisted and to make sure you knew about She Persisted Around the World. It was just published March 6th and might be of great interest to those outside the US. Have a great reading week and thanks for sharing so many great titles with #imwayr!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have been hesitant to pick up She Persisted for the reasons you mentioned above: it’s focus on American Women. After reading the rest of your comments, I feel better about it already.
    I’m in for a year of reading of literary witches. I knew the name of Joy Harjo, but haven’t read anything. Crazy Brave: A Memoir is now on my list.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sarah Sammis

    Great selection of books. Come see what I’m reading.

    Liked by 1 person

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  9. I absolutely adore the illustrations in those books.

    Angelica @ Paperback Princess

    Liked by 1 person

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