Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Authors that Deserve More Recognition

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the ladies @ The Broke and the Bookish.  I usually make a note of the topic the week before and think/peck on the list all week.  Some lists are easier than others, but this list has been the most difficult for me of all the lists so far.  I had some trouble getting started bc I was trying to focus on "brand new" writers.  Then I realized that authors who deserve more recognition don't exactly have to be brand new.  Once I gave myself permission to look into my own past as a reader at authors who've meant a lot to me over the years and maybe are not heard from or about quite so much anymore, the names started pouring.

Top Ten Authors that Deserve More Recognition

1. Anne Bradstreet - I dislike poetry.  Yes, I'm an English major and dislike poetry...I had absolutely 0 positive experiences with poetry until I took an American Women Writers class in graduate school and was introduced to the poetry of Anne Bradstreet.   Anne was a colonial American writer, an incredibly intelligent and independent mother who was also deeply in love with her husband.  Her poetry is of home, nature, politics, and life in early colonial times in Virgina.  Some of my favorites are "A Dialogue Between Old England and New," "The Author to Her Book,"  "Before the Birth of One of Her Children," and "To My Dear and Loving Husband."

2. Bobbie Ann Mason - The first book of Bobbie Ann Mason's that I read was In Country.  Whoa.  In Country ranks right up there with Walter Dean Myers' Fallen Angels as far as shedding light on what the Vietnam War meant for the United States, those who fought in it and in the case of In Country especially, those who were left behind after the war.  Bobbie Ann Mason is a Southerner and writes from that perspective...true, honest, down to earth and real.

3.  Lynda Van Devanter - Home Before Morning is one of the most moving memoirs of the Vietnam war I have ever read.  Van Devanter went to Vietanam as an army nurse, performed complicated surgeries in the trenches under emergency trauma conditions and returned to the U.S. where she was relegated to the bedpan squad, not because of her skills but because of the gender defined responsibilities of nurses as opposed to surgeons as well as disintegrated American attitudes toward the war.  Home Before Morning is a modern day version of Virginia Woolf's examination of what happens to the woman writer who's not allowed to write, except in Van Devanter's case, it's the woman doctor who's not allowed to heal (herself as well as others).

4.  Betty Smith - Is there a better coming of age novel than A Tree Grows in Brooklyn?  I accidently stumbled on this one as a middle schooler in the library at Mississippi State while my dad was working on his research.  In my opinion Betty Smith paints as vivid a picture of Francie Nolan's life in Brooklyn, New York as Harper Lee paints of Scout Finch's life in Maycomb County Alabama.  


5.  Khaled Hosseini - the only writer on my list who is actually "new."  It is difficult for me to put into words how much I was touched by The Kite Runner.  I gave it a shot in my review several months back, but I think it would be impossible to completely do this author justice.  Hosseini is an example to me of one of those exceptional writers who comes along just at the right time. His knowledge and obvious first hand experiences with all things Afghan interwoven with his knowledge of life outside of Afghanistan complete a circle of thought that we must all consider.  As Americans we tend to be egocentric and find it difficult to look at life outside our own backyards and/or to actually think about the possibility that our way is not necessarily the right way and someone else's way is not necessarily the wrong way.  I see this attitude daily in my students who have grown up entitled.  We are going to be in trouble as a nation if we don't start making what we call at our house some "attitude adjustments."

6.  Rita Mae Brown - Sneaky Pie Brown mystery series - For the writer of Rubyfruit Jungle to also be the writer of Sneaky Pie novels as well as the Sister Jane foxhunting series is absolutely astonishing.  Brown embeds a gamut of political, historical and natural issues within some of the best mystery writing out there...and doesn't have to use horrifying descriptions of serial killers' minds and/or their methods of killing to bring chills to your spine.  One of her best in the Sneaky Pie series is Murder at Monticello.

7.  Lilian Braun Jackson - Now you know good and well that I could not leave out KoKo and Yum Yum's mommy.  Jackson began writing her mysteries when one of her own beloved Siamese cats accidently fell off the ledge of her apartment...makes me want to cry to think of it.  Jackson's lead character is reporter Jim Qwilleran....a sophisticated gentleman who finds himself caught up in some of the most artistic, literate and intricate mysteries around.  One of my early favorites is The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern :)

8.  Elizabeth George Speare - As a young girl I accidently learned a lot about history from some of the stories I read.  I was enthralled with books that had young people from all over the world as the protagonists and told me about things that really happened a long time ago.  As a young teacher it occurred to me that I was not a common adolescent reader...hence the classrooms of students sitting before me who had no idea when the Declaration of Independence was signed, various timeframes in Western Civilization and/or the relevance of knowing not just dates but the contexts within which our world has changed, power structures, political figures, etc. etc. etc.  The knowledge that I own of history didn't come from history class...it came from the books that I read by authors such as Speare who pull the young reader in and make it impossible for him/her to forget the past.  My favorite is, of course, The Witch of Blackbird Pond

9.  Katherine Paterson - More classic coming of age...I'm afraid sometimes that we get so caught up in the newest and grandest stuff that we forget about stories and characters created by authors such as Paterson, characters such as sisters Sarah Louise and Caroline from Jacob Have I Loved, and friends Jess and Leslie from Bridge to Terabithia tackle the same issues as young adults today but possibly with richer storylines and depth than some of what's available today.  I'm not knocking what's available today...I'm for whatever we can get kids to read...I just don't want anybody to miss out on these gems :)

10.  Richard Adams - I worked in an indie bookstore all during my junior high and high school years so I was probably exposed to more there than I was any other place.  I stumbled into Watership Down
just because of the big brown rabbit on the cover and was literally swept away into the warren community.  Comparable to any other classics whose themes deal with alternate societies...the rabbits are not that much different than us.  Even though I know Watership Down began as stories Adams told his daughters, I have never and will never see the cartoon...this author is that special to me.

Next Week: Top Ten Book Covers I would Re-Design...hmmmm


  1. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit I haven't read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Thanks for reminding me I should add it to my TBR

  2. Richard Adams and Watership Down for the win! This is a great list.

  3. I haven't read any of these books, but "A tree grows in Brooklyn" is now at the top of my list! I'm really eager to discover a book written in the same vein than "To kill a mockingbird".

  4. The only one I know is Rita Mae Brown. I love the Sneaky Pie books because my husband is from close to Crozet.

  5. Great list! I've heard of most of the authors but I haven't read books/poetry from all of them. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Red and Elleby, I'm due for a re-read of A Tree Grows in Brookly myself...let me know what you think :)

    Birdie, Watership Down is just one of those books you never forget, isn't it? :)

    bermudaonion, how neat!! I just love Brown's descriptions of the Virginia countryside :)

    Alexis, thanks!

  7. Good list. I've only read Bradstreet. I've definitely heard of some of these, and I've wanted to read Watership Down for a while.

    Check out my post here: http://hawthornescarlet.blogspot.com/2011/03/top-ten-tuesday-check-um-out.html

  8. What an interesting list! I own and really must read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Not that I ought to be looking for new authors, but I can't resist the lure of a recommendation, and after all, it's only right and proper to give authors the recognition they deserve! :)

  9. I am an English major too and it took me a while to truly appreciate poetry, but I've gotten there. I haven't read Anne Bradstreet, though, I must!