Welcome back. How are you doing today? Let's transgress the norms by learning about another 5 brave women who wrote what everyone is scared of. Today we will learn a bit about Beatrice Sparks, Tana French, Dorothy Allison, Asper Blurry, and Jeanette Winterson.
(January 15, 1917 – May 25, 2012)
Beatrice Sparks was an American therapist and Mormon youth counselor who was known for her books that were purporting to be the "real diaries" of troubled teenagers. The books deal with issues such as drug abuse, Satanism, teenage pregnancy, or AIDS and that is the reason I categorize her writings under Transgressive Fiction. All of her books were published with the byline 'Anonymous'. Almost Lost and Kim: Empty Inside are the only books for which Sparks does not claim the copyright as the author of the entire work.
Go Ask Alice is a 1971 book about a teenage girl who develops a drug addiction at age 15 and runs away from home on a journey of self-destructive escapism. There were a lot of questions about the book's authenticity and true authorship that arise in the late 1970s but are now generally viewed as a manuscript-styled fictional work written by Sparks, Nevertheless, its popularity has endured, and as of 2014, it had remained continuously in print since its publication over four decades earlier. (source)
This book is her first work. In interviews conducted over the next few years, Sparks identified herself as the book's editor and related that Alice consisted partly of the actual diary of a troubled teen, and partly of fictional events based on Sparks's experiences working with other teens. (source)Go Ask Alice received positive initial reviews and was also recommended by Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and The Christian Science Monitor, and ranked number 1 on the American Library Association's 1971 list of Best Books for Young Adults. (source) However, starting in the 1990s, the book began to draw criticism for its heavy-handedness, melodramatic style, and inauthenticity, in view of the growing consciousness that it was fiction rather than a real teenager's diary. (source) At its time, this book may be transgressive fiction but today it has been criticized for equating homosexuality with "degradation", illness, sin, and guilt. (source)
“I'm not really sure which parts of myself are real and which parts are things I've gotten from books.” ― Beatrice Sparks, Go Ask Alice
Tana French is born in 1973 is an American-Irish writer and theatrical actress. Her debut novel In the Woods was published in 2007, a psychological mystery, won the Edgar,(source) Anthony, Macavity, and Barry awards for a best first novel. The New York Times writes about The Searcher as "a spellbinding, propulsive new novel from the bestselling mystery writer who is in a class by herself." For me, this book is a form of transgressive fiction as it needs guts to read.
Her first novel, In the Woods, is listed in top transgressive novels by Goodreads and it's one of my favorite crime/horror books. The plot revolves around a rape-murder which is not easy to read for people who are sensitive about this matter. Her psychological slash literary mystery, where the emphasis isn't on the detective or the narrator being in physical danger, but psychological danger.
“What I am telling you, before you begin my story, is this -- two things: I crave truth. And I lie. ” ― Tana French, In the Woods
Dorothy Allison is an American writer whose writing focuses on class struggle, sexual abuse, child abuse, feminism, and lesbianism. (source) French literary scholar Mélanie Grué describes Allison's work as a celebration of "the vilified transgressive lesbian body." (source)Grué also notes Allison's ability to make lesbian "desire and pleasure public" in her writing is in contrast to the second-wave feminist views on "correct expressions" of sexuality. Allison is a survivor of physical abuse and incest. She is a lesbian and feminist activist, a mom, and a teacher.
Allison's first novel, the semi-autobiographical Bastard Out of Carolina, was one of five finalists for the 1992 National Book Award. Her influences include Flannery O’Connor, James Baldwin, Jewelle Gomez, Toni Morrison, Bertha Harris, and Audre Lorde. (source) Allison says The Bluest Eye by Morrison helped her to write about incest. But she mentions “what may be the central fact of my life is that I was born in 1949 in Greenville, South Carolina, the bastard daughter of a white woman from a desperately poor family …” she wrote in an essay included in her 1994 book Skin. She began writing and still writes to make sense of her upbringing, forgive her mother for not protecting her, and give other writers permission to tell their stories. (source)After reading Bastard Out of Carolina I started writing an anthology of creative essays about my life and the abuse I've been through.
“Write to your fear.” ― Dorothy Allison
Asper Blurry is a writer with a voice that is genuine, blunt, and raw, sometimes poetic and mysterious. I categorize her work under transgressive fiction because she freely writes about controversial issues such as addictions, depression, and intolerance.
After reading Train to the Edge of the Moon I fell in love with her style of writing. This book is about the youngster's reality – struggles with career, romances, feeling lost, misunderstood, and rejected by society. It’s funny, it makes you laugh but yet it's sad and dark and makes you want to cry a little. In this book, Blurry doesn't affraid to bring up controversial issues such as addictions, depression, and abuse which all are categorized under the transgressive genre. She writes about "those who have been beaten down, and nearly robbed of everything that makes them who they are, those who refuse to adapt and be another brick in the wall in the modern mayhem will find here hope and strength to fight for their happiness and peace of soul." (source)
“Maybe people like us can’t be happy. Maybe we’re too damaged and the only thing we can do is to learn how to hate ourselves a little less.” ― Asper Blurry, Train to the Edge of the Moon
Jeanette Winterson is an English writer who became famous with her first book, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, a semi-autobiographical novel about a sensitive teenage girl rebelling against conventional values. This book is so well written that it brings back memories of the time you were that teen. Most of her novels are focusing on exploring gender polarities and sexual identity, and later ones on the relations between humans and technology. (source) which is yet another reason that I adore her as it's the genre I am fascinated about in my writings as well.
Her 2012 novella, The Daylight Gate, based on the 1612 Pendle Witch Trials, was published on the 400th anniversary of the trials. The story's main character, Alice Nutter, is based on the real-life woman of the same name. In an interview with the guardian, she mentions that "I thought of suicide. I rang up friends saying, 'I think I need to kill myself.' I saw myself between two dark spaces. One dark space was suicide. The other was pretending to myself there was nothing wrong and carry on my life without confronting that darkness. I had to be in that space where suicide was really an option for overcoming unbearable mental pain." (source)A feeling I've experienced myself.
The Guardian's Sarah Hall describes the work as "irrefutable; this is old-fashioned storytelling, with a sermonic tone that commands and terrifies. It's also like courtroom reportage, sworn witness testimony. The sentences are short, truthful – and dreadful ... Absolutism is Winterson's forte, and it's the perfect mode to verify supernatural events when they occur. You're not asked to believe in magic. Magic exists. A severed head talks. A man is transmogrified into a hare. The story is stretched as tight as a rack, so the reader's disbelief is ruptured rather than suspended. And if doubt remains, the text's sensuality persuades."(source)
“Book collecting is an obsession, an occupation, a disease, an addiction, a fascination, an absurdity, a fate. It is not a hobby. Those who do it must do it.” ― Jeanette Winterson
Stay tuned with another blog post about Women Transgressive Writer. See you soon.