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A Literary & Poetry Column
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Carolyn Admits to Being a
Late-Blooming Feminist

Because Women May Be Losing Ground…

     I, like many women, supposed that our fight for equality was behind us.

     I looked askance at those who still champed and bit and raised their fists. Weren’t they radicals for no reason? Sort of antiquated rabble rousers without a cause?

     It’s not that I wasn’t firmly in favor of women’s rights back in the 60s and 70s but I never did my part in affecting change. I was too busy raising children, starting a business and, further, the barricades erected against women and minorities that I had encountered as a young journalist weren’t as evident in the world of homemaking and entrepreneurship, the two arenas in which I spent much of my life.

     That was before my novel THIS IS THE PLACE was released three years ago, and, if I may digress a moment, one of the most exciting results of this huge event in my life was the community of readers and writers that I gathered around myself for love, support and camaraderie. Not all, but many of them were women—proactive women—and their successes and hardships prompted a new-found interest in feminism.

     It all began when one of the women who reviewed This is the Place commented that feminist themes were evident. Then sites that catered to women featured it. Women in my critique group set me straight when I shook my head in wonder at all the fuss. I even started getting mail from readers—women—who said things like, “I always thought I was alone in the feelings I was having.”

     When I finally accepted that these themes were, indeed, evident in my book and were, in fact, part of the “corrosive nature of intolerance” that I knew I had written into it’s pages, I started noticing all kinds of ways that prejudice against women still exists in our culture. Not only does much still need to be done but political forces are still eroding much of what we have achieved. I soon found myself working to establish a Commission on the Status of Women in my home town—a notoriously conservative community—and actively promoting my book among women’s groups.

     I also found more and more women (and some men) who use the power of their pens to make a difference.

     Hooray for these women!
      (Titles are linked to Amazon or B&N.)

     In their honor, I’d like to mention some books that might change the minds of those who think that “women’s work” is done. As difficult as it was for women only a few decades ago many of us need a refresher course. We need the information and fortitude to stand firm against the political and cultural forces now poised to diminish—if not eradicate—much of the work that has been done. In America we tend to feel safe-- even a little self-satisfied. We need to be on the alert not only for ourselves but for women the world over.

Paths to Freedom: Women Who Triumphed Over Adversity by Alexis Powers
     This book was just released; it profiles the courage of twelve women including Gloria Killian who found herself in prison for a crime she didn’t commit at least in part because women do not yet have the clout necessary to protect themselves in our culture, much less others.

No Turning Back by Estelle B. Freedman
This book was assigned to my grandson in a class he took on feminism at Glendale Community College. I must have been some influence in spite of my decades-long lapse.

Beauty Bites Beast: Awakening the Warrior Within Women and Girls by Gavin DeBecker, J. Stevens and Ellen Snortland
     Ms. Snortland is a columnist for The Pasadena Weekly. I met her when I wrote a letter to the editor about one of her uproariously funny “Consider This” columns, which I also highly recommend if you live where you can put your hands on this alternative newspaper.

From Indian Corn to Outer Space: Women Invent in America by Fred M. B. Amram
If women hadn’t found it necessary to overcome “enormous social obstacles” this book would have had no reason for being.

America’s Women by Gail Collins
     This is a celebration of how far women have come but also a reminder that even a woman who makes it to an executive suite may encounter those who “expect” her to dress a turkey, even if it’s something she doesn’t enjoy doing.

Honor Lost: Love and Death in Modern-Day Jordan by Norma Khouri
     This book will remind readers of how essential the progress we make in own country—and how we protect the strides we have taken-- is for the future of women elsewhere.

And, of course, This is the Place:
     I am mentioning my own book because it has a place here. It tells of the subtle oppression that one’s culture, including religion, pressed upon women in the 50s; many still prevail today. It is, after all, what originally inspired this column.

Tips and Tidbits

Each month in this box, Carolyn lists a writing or promotion tidbit that will help authors and a tip to help readers find a treasure among long-neglected books or a sapphire among the newly-published.

Writers' Tidbit: Authors and publishers may announce their recently released books that are available for review; reviewers may find books that interest them. The e-mail address of the group is: . Check out their discussion board by searching the Yahoo groups under the name of Reviewer's Choice. (My Thanks for this tidbit to Norm Goldman, Editor of )

Readers' Tip: Here is a link to a relatively new book club on the net that chooses a few new winners every month. My books have been featured in the past and I’ve never been disappointed by one of their recommendations:

2003 Past Columns

Carolyn Admits to Being a
Late-Blooming Feminist

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