I remember reading works by these women through childhood. Whether required for school or voluntary, each of them influenced me in ways I never anticipated. Each woman I remark upon today changed history for the better with the power of their words. They overcame adversity in many forms, often using their experiences as fuel for their writing. They serve as inspiration as women and as writers.
Zora Neale Hurston
1891 – 1960
Those that don’t got it, can’t show it. Those that got it, can’t hide it.
My first exposure to Hurston occurred in high school when I read Their Eyes Were Watching God. I remember my classmates’ frustration at the regional dialectic used by the novel’s characters. Where my peers found obstacles, I found reward. As an avid bookworm, I found her use of language challenging yet fascinating. She provided a lens into her life, giving me a taste of a life I’d never know otherwise.
Her ability to transport the reader, if open to mental exercise, is a model for writers everywhere. I know she’s not the only novelist to incorporate regional dialect, let alone difficult language. When you push yourself to read something different, you look at the language in an entirely different way. I found myself rereading for depth as much as clarity, which ultimately prepared me for analyzing more complex works, such as T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland. Additionally, she gave me a new challenge to aspire to as a writer: using rich dialect to bring my characters and their culture to life.
1928 – 2014
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
Few can match the transformative autobiographical power of Maya Angelou. She told her traumatic, impactful life story in poetry and prose. With the prompting of James Baldwin, she drafted and published her most popular work I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. This particular account discusses a childhood trauma of great magnitude, one I recommend anyone read. It shows the healing power of story at its best. Angelou published several prominent poems, too. Some of her most famous are below.
Still I Rise
“Caged Bird Legacy | The Legacy Of Dr. Maya Angelou”. Mayaangelou.Com, 2019, https://www.mayaangelou.com/. Accessed 13 Feb 2019.
“Maya Angelou”. Biography, 2019, https://www.biography.com/people/maya-angelou-9185388.
Boyd, Valerie. “About Zora Neale Hurston”. Zoranealehurston.Com, 2019, https://www.zoranealehurston.com/about/. Accessed 13 Feb 2019.