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The Vintage Book of American Women Writers    edited by Elaine Showalter order for
Vintage Book of American Women Writers
by Elaine Showalter
Order:  USA  Can
Vintage, 2011 (2011)
Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Kelly Thunstrom

Just in time for Women's History Month comes this impressive 813 page anthology edited by Elaine Showalter. Showalter puts together an extremely varied collection of women writers, many of whom, unless you were an English major, you will have never have heard of before. In her introduction, Showalter addresses this fact, using the example of the difference between Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. When Leaves of Grass received some horrible reviews, Whitman basically pushed them aside and reviewed it himself anonymously. Contrast that with notorious recluse Dickinson, who refused publicity, and in her lifetime, only published very few of her poems.

The anthology begins with Puritan Anne Bradstreet who, in Showalter's introduction states that if men just happened to do her the honor of reading one of her poems, 'Give thyme or parsley wreath, I ask no bays.' To put it in 2011 language, she couldn't have cared less. Showalter wisely stays away from the authors' well-known works. She instead includes Harriet Beecher Stowe's The Village Do-Nothing, from Oldtown Folks and Louisa May Alcott's My Contraband and Transcendental Wild Oats, proving that these very popular authors are not one-hit wonders. She ends the anthology with Jhumpa Lahiri's 1999 work, A Temporary Matter.

This is definitely not a book to read all at once. Instead, take time to savor each author that you may or may not be familiar with. During Women's History Month, it is nice to know that we have such wonderful representation in the literary arena.

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