The Silent Canon
Sure, we all read women. They make up no small part of our libraries. But where do they go when we’re finished with them? Not into the annals of history; not onto the lists of greats. Or—rarely. (Of the 116 Nobel Laureates in literature, 15 have been women.) And as well as we may know, or think we know, the greats of American literature—Alcott, Wharton, Angelou, Morrison—our knowledge of the women writers of the rest of the world is scant, at best. Think: alongside Tolstoy, Chekhov and Dostoevky, can you name a Russian woman? An African writer before Chimananda Ngozi Adichie? Either of the two Polish women who won the Nobel Prize in Literature? And why not? It’s tempting to explain away their absence and say we cannot read what was never published. But peer closer and there they are: a constellation of brilliant minds through history, many of them celebrities in their own time. It is we who have forgotten.
The women represented in this collection, The Silent Canon, are as diverse a collection of voices as you'll find on earth—in their histories, their preoccupations, their prose. They write of love, marriage, childbirth, abortion, rape, betrayal—yes. But also of murder, art, war, dystopia, the pleasure of cherries on a straw hat. They are a medieval nun, a Tutsi refugee, a recluse, a children’s illustrator, the daughter of a famous writer, the mother of one. Our list is by no means comprehensive; it is, rather, an invitation to begin your own search. These women tell a story only they can tell in history; it's for us to listen.