From fiction to nonfiction and everywhere in between, writers, regardless of gender, bring us one of the most cherished treasures in the world: stories. Women in this industry are celebrated and revered for their work, but some have fallen into the backdrop that should not have. So, I’ve decided to bring them to you in this (number) part summer reading series of the “forgotten women.” Through research, I compiled a list of the most underrated, interesting, and bold woman writers you should be reading right now.
We will begin with Carson McCullers, author and playwright from Columbus, Georgia. McCullers moved from her sleepy town to the Big Apple to pursue a degree in Creative Writing at Columbia University. During her time in the city, she wed her complicated lover Reeves McCullers, who she would eventually divorce due to him stealing from her.
Her loneliness manifested in many forms and eventually found its way into her particularly Southern Gothic genre. She fixated on the lonely heart, taking her pain and tragedies that came after her divorce and putting them into characters in her work. McCullers was intrigued by the “misfit” or the “other” that she noticed while living in the rural south during the early 1900s.
This molded her characters to have various physical or as then perceived “psychological handicaps” that would help set them apart from the norm. She focused so heavily on the misfit that she was once said that she “lived” with her characters. Her paradigm helped create characters of depth, ones that were so realistic and troubled that readers couldn’t help but become attached to them.
Throughout her life, McCullers suffered from a number of strokes caused from a fever she contracted when she was fifteen. Later in her life she became dependent on alcohol and later died of a brain hemorrhage in her home in Nyack, New York.
The Heart is A Lonely Hunter is the most popular McCullers book on the market. It showcases her strengths while capitalizing on her vulnerabilities through shocking twists and turns that leave readers both satisfied and devastated.
Her writing has been compared to Harper Lee and Steinbeck. She can be drawn closely to these literary giants, but her personal voice is something of her own. Through her story building and keen attention to detail in plot developing, McCullers has brought something special to the table.
She is preparing you for the realistic, heart-wrenching outcome a lot of writers are too afraid to give an audience. Through this lens, she’s stripped away any stone of and brought you into the real world, cloaked in all of the dirt and muck of real life. This brings the reader and author closer together-- showing each other a specific relationship between two strangers. McCullers is an intimate writer, someone who is well worth the read!
McCullers was known for her heartbreakingly honest writing, below I’ve attached a few of my favorite quotes that I think sum up the writer’s mentality and storytelling.
“We are homesick most for the places we have never known.”
“Maybe when people longed for a thing that bad the longing made them trust in anything that might give it to them.” The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
“How can the dead be truly dead when they still live in the souls of those who are left behind?” The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
“She wished there was some place where she could go to hum it out loud. Some kind of music was too private to sing in a house cram fall of people. It was funny, too, how lonesome a person could be in a crowded house.” The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
“But the hearts of small children are delicate organs. A cruel beginning in this world can twist them into curious shapes. The heart of a hurt child can shrink so that forever afterward it is hard and pitted as the seed of a peach. Or again, the heart of such a child may fester and swell until it is a misery to carry within the body, easily chafed and hurt by the most ordinary things.” The Ballad of the Sad Café and Other Stories
Check out more of her work here to investigate this awesome woman writer!