Monday, October 22, 2012




Today is Doris Lessing's birthday. She is 93. She was born in the same year as my mother, 1919. She is one of my heroines. I like that she wears blue in many of her later photos and how she is often resting her face on a hand. Most of all I love how fearless, creative, on the bleeding edge she has always been. 

She is one of only 12 women to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. She does not yield to praise, criticism, mockery, or worship. She is herself. What more can any human being hope to be, but especially women?

I am just a short way into reading her novels. I began with The Summer Before the Dark, 1973, a novel about a woman waking up to herself after playing the mother and wife role for many years. I loved her realism, her courage and her truth. From there I went to the beginning of her list and am coming forward.

The Grass Is Singing, 1950. I was blown away by the quality of the writing and again the realism about family, girlhood, and race.
This Was the Old Chiefs Country, 1951. Her first collection of short stories mostly derived from her early years in Zimbabwe, where she was raised.
Martha Quest, 1952, is the first in her Children of Violence series. Her is where her feminism really begins to show, though she does not like being lumped in with feminists.
Five, 1953 is a compilation of five short novels. I do not generally read short stories or novellas but Doris Lessing loses no power because of brevity.
A Proper Marriage, 1954. This is how we end up married, pregnant, mothering, going crazy, leaving it all behind. Or at least it is how it happened back in the day.
Retreat to Innocence, 1956. The first novel set in England. She later wished it had not been published but I see it as a logical progression of thought.
Ripple From the Storm, 1958. The third in the Children of Violence series, follows Martha after A Proper Marriage. This is the stage where we try to find out who we are by joining questionable political groups and getting disillusioned.

The next book for me is The Golden Notebook, 1962, her most well known novel. I am about a third of the way through my 1960 list, so it will be a little while.

I doubt that she will come across this post, but I do hope that more readers will discover her books because of it. And I send out my admiration and best wishes to a woman who put me into words. That is a large part of why I read.

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