Biographies Book

Write a woman’s life or biography

Reading about women authors through their biographies or through the commentaries they make is often more revealing than their books. Carolyn Heilbrun in her book Write a woman’s life (more like a thesis in its early chapters) states that to really know a female author well enough to write her biography, you must go beyond dissecting her works of fiction and get to know her from her correspondence with friends and peers. This is especially true for women authors before 1970, since Heilbrun considers this year “the beginning of a new period in women’s biography” and 1973 as the turning point of “modern women’s autobiography”. by Nancy Milford Zelda is the biography and that of May Sarton Diary of a loneliness is the “decisive turning point in the autobiography of women”.

The author argues that famous women writers, such as Louisa May Alcott, the Brontë sisters, and Jane Austen, had to toe the line of an acceptable society before this time. The success of many of these women (George Sand, George Eliot) was often made possible by the use of a pseudonym and by conforming their female characters to prevailing conventions. So most female writers before 1973 were forced to portray their gender as wives and mothers and do so as a matter of course, as there was no other avenue open to them but to drive their characters on the verge of madness. By pursuing the author outside of his writings, a biographer can trace the chronological details of the author’s budding emancipation.

The book becomes more interesting in its last forty pages, when the author discusses the marital relationship and suggests that for marriage to succeed, the two individuals must have a friendship beyond the initial passion that attracted them. They should be flexible and respectful of each other’s growth and self-discovery. This self-discovery is much later for women, who tend to postpone their own desires to continue to play the role of wife, mother and, as we have seen in recent decades, partial providers as well.

The end of Write a woman’s life explains how women seek their “quest” in life. Heilbrun takes herself as an example. She postponed writing her detective series to avoid censorship from academia. She was the first female homeroom teacher at a major ivy league school. If she had written the series under her own name instead of Amanda Cross, she would never have been tenured. And even with the pseudonym, she chose a female detective, who was rich, married and beautiful. Through the series, she “went on a quest (the male plot), she became a knight (the male lead), she rescued a (male) princess”. The secrecy of her mystery series has given her some control over her destiny and allowed her to do things she couldn’t in her professional life. Essentially, it let her recreate herself.

One of the most profound statements of Write a woman’s life comes near the end of the book. “Most of us women, I think, turn our need to be loved into a need to love, so expecting from men and children more than they, caught in their own lives, can give us. ” When women have power (money) and space, they will create a quest story to replace the old marriage plot.

And age is often the incentive that pushes a woman to no longer be afraid or to hide in order to try and do important things. For those who fear loss of appearance and whose hourglass figure has more and more sand accumulating at the bottom, the author states: “For a woman to gain weight in middle age is to dissociate her personality from her feminine appeal.” A character by Isak Dinesen states, “Women, when they are old enough to be done with the work of being women and can unleash their strength, must be the most powerful creatures in the world.” Aging can be liberating and makes you think about possibilities.

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