Celebrate Women’s History Month with these titles from the library

Published 2:49 pm Friday, March 6, 2020

This column was submitted by Evangeline Cessna, Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library Local History Librarian. This week’s selections feature new adult nonfiction in honor of Women’s History Month. Remember, you can find additional titles at wcvpl.blogspot.com. 


Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror & Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kroger and Melanie R. Anderson features over a hundred women authors who developed and refined the horror, mystery, science-fiction, and fantasy genres. It turns out that women have always been the vanguard of frightening fiction and their life stories are no less intriguing than their novels, short stories, and novellas. There are forgotten visionaries like Margaret “Mad Madge” Cavendish and Pauline E. Hopkins as well as literary icons like Mary Shelley and Shirley Jackson. There are also modern-day mavens like Anne Rice and Helen Oyeyemi. With over two hundred works briefly discussed, there is plenty of material for a hefty reading list, however, if you need more, a further reading list is offered after the discussion of each author.

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Stand-up comedian, writer, and actress Ali Wong delivers some heartfelt and humorous letters to her daughters in Dear Girls (Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, & Advice for Living Your Best Life). When Ali filmed her Netflix Special Baby Cobra, she was eight months pregnant and her performance resonated with fans so much she became a popular Halloween costume, but it is her unfiltered thoughts on marriage, sex, and working women that reverberates here. Using her sharp insight and humor, she shares the wisdom she’s learned from her career in comedy and stories of her life off stage, like the brutal single life in New York. She tells how she set out to reconnect with her roots in Vietnam, being a wild child growing up in San Francisco, and suffering parental humiliations. Although these are addressed to her daughters, Ali’s letters are absurdly funny and fun to read for everyone.

Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA is the gripping memoir of Amaryllis Fox. Fox was trained and deployed in the most elite clandestine operations unit in the CIA and spent eight years hunting the world’s most dangerous terrorists in sixteen countries. During that time, she also married and experienced the birth of her first daughter, all while working undercover. After studying international law and theology at Oxford, Fox enrolled at Georgetown where she developed an algorithm that predicted the likelihood that a terrorist cell could erupt anywhere in the world. At twenty-one she was recruited by the CIA and her first job was analyzing hundreds of classified documents a day and assembling them for inclusion in the president’s daily brief. Next, she was moved to the Iraq desk in the Counterterrorism Center where she worked to locate prisoners kidnapped by al Qa’ida; a year later she was working to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists. After intense espionage training, she was deployed as a spy under a nonofficial cover to infiltrate terrorist networks in Northern Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.

Author Holly George-Warren captures the life and music of Janis Joplin in Janis. Joplin grew up in a conservative Texas oil town and drew scorn from her peers for embracing of the Beats and her progressive views. While many of the women her age used beauty, privilege, or marriage to get a foothold in life, Janice decided to use the truth of her emotions to propel her into a successful music career. Like many groundbreaking artists, Janis was complicated: marked by her father’s deep blues but determined to overcome them, a sexually shy teenager who later pushed the boundaries of sexuality, a lover who wanted to marry and settle down but couldn’t or wouldn’t. She was a musician who tripped over her talent but became determined to perfect it and a Texan who wanted desperately to get out of Texas but couldn’t quite get away even after becoming the queen of counter-culturalism in San Francisco. Given unprecedented access to Janis Joplin’s family, friends, bandmates, and personal archives, the author gives us a well- rounded view of the musician beyond the mere legend.

Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister by Jung Chang tells the story of the Soong sisters from Shanghai who were at the heart of twentieth-century Chinese politics and culture. Red Sister was Ching-ling who married the “Father of China,” Sun Yat-sen, and later rose to be Mao’s vice chair. Little Sister was May-ling who married Chiang Kai-shek and became first lady of pre-Communist Nationalist China and a major political figure in her own right. Finally, Big Sister was Ei-ling who was the unofficial main advisor to her brother-in-law Chiang and made herself one of China’s richest women. All three enjoyed tremendous privilege and adoration, but they also endured constant mortal danger. They showed great courage and felt passionate love, as well as disappointment and heartbreak. The three remained very close emotionally throughout Red Sister’s exile in Russia, the horrors of World War II, and the rise of Mao even though they were in different political camps.