I love reading stories with strong female characters. I’m attracted to stories about women who aren’t intimidated by anything, women who aren’t afraid to do what they want or say what they think. I am drawn in by poems that evoke a sense of confidence, comfort and security. I always reach for the stories that promise an ally, a character I can relate to, or someone I can aspire to be.
I guess it was natural that the poems and stories I chose to include in this issue of Room of One’s Own illustrate my fascination with powerful women.This issue incorporates a broad range of realistic female characters. Some of the characters I long to be like, and others I feel I can already relate to.Some characters’ strength is evident from the first word; for others, you have to wait until the last sentence.
What drew me to the works in this issue was not just the strong, female characters, but the sense of progression in their lives. The poems and short stories appeal to me because they depict many different women, yet an underlying sense of change is so distinct in each character.
Several authors explore physical progressions, and the emotions associated with aging and growth. Mary Frances Hill’s Letter to a Childhood Friend is a sentimental look back at the purity ofchildhood; Linda Kingston’s Escuminac relates a girl’s experience of “growing into a body/I wouldn’t recognize” and “growing into my flesh/meekly/unwilling”; and Patricia McKenzie’s poems, The Change and Friends, display contrasting feelings about aging. Genni Gunn’s Beauty Foils Rapist takes a close look at how both women and men are affected by the ideals of beauty that are dispersed throughout our society.
Relationships with families, friends and partners greatly influence our sense of self, and can be a force that both obstructs and motivates our growth. Teruko Anderson-Jones’ poem Any Darkness touches on a woman’s relationship with her mother, and how it can shift between being rewarding and damaging in a woman’s life. Anna Pray’s Pea Patch of Love depicts an influential woman, whose power is so great that after letting her into your life‘ Tour apartment will never be purely/Empty again. ”Ruby Kadey and Kendra Anderson both contribute short stories that reflect different outlooks on the relationship between a young woman and an older man, and Kelly Cooper’s Not the First examines the role that sex and love play throughout one woman’s life.
What lingers in my mind most from this issue are those poems and stories that clearly express independence, freedom and security. Wendy Bone, Claire Dineen, Ellen Cecilia Miller and Linda Kingston attracted me with their poems, and the unique ways in which they each capture a single moment of independence. Grace Hols’ Lilacs and Deb Baker’s Mountain Climbing both involve women who persevere for their independence. Martha Kilgore Rice’s Maneuvering the Gap contradicts these stories of independence, but it is a wonderful complement and crucial addition to this issue. It illustrates one woman’s rejection ofher independence, in order to avoid accepting the person she is: “I am my own censor; I will not allow myself to make a fool of myself even in front of myself.”
Jill McGrath’s series of poems reminds us that women have always experiencing the same kinds ofstruggles, and that we are not alone in our battles. While we share many ofthe same problems as our female ancestors, these poems also force us to recognize the progress that has been made.
Finally, E.M. Brossard’s stunning cover art Walking Woman, and Sarah Horsfall’s striking inside art complete this issue with bold visual representation of strong women. This artwork emphasizes the fact that after reading this issue of Room of One’s Own, you will be left with countless images of powerful women, each exerting her own independence in her own way and in her own time.