Lit Up

Lit Up

March of every year is declared National Women’s Month. To celebrate, we are bringing you a list of eight astonishing women who used their words and their power to open our eyes, awaken our senses, and deepen our understanding of each other and the society we live in. Let’s celebrate our power!

The eight authors we celebrate here are not simply writing books—which itself would be a remarkable enough accomplishment. These astonishing women are using their words and their platforms—their power—to open our eyes, awaken our senses, and deepen our understanding of each other and the society we live in. We celebrate them, yes, for the stories they tell, but also for the work they do in helping to make the world a better place, whether through what’s on their pages or through their activism. You go!

Under Lan Samantha Chang’s mentorship, a new generation of writers has emerged.

When Lan Samantha Chang was appointed director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2006, she became the first female and the first Asian or non-white person to head the program since its founding in 1936. The four directors who preceded her were all white men, and while it counted among its student and faculty alumnae such renowned writers as Flannery O’Connor, Robert Frost, and Raymond Carver, it had a reputation for insularity.

That began to change under the directorship of Chang’s writing teacher, Frank Conroy, but when Chang took over, her goal, she told O Quarterly, was to “create a more aesthetically, culturally, racially diverse program” in terms of students, faculty, and the kinds of writing considered for acceptance to the program. “I was really interested,” she says, “in finding voices that would reflect our changing country.” One such voice, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie author Ayana Mathis, an Iowa grad and ex-faculty member whose book was a 2012 Oprah’s Book Club selection, told us: “In my cohort in 2009, which was early in Sam’s tenure, there were only three Black women, which was in itself unprecedented then. But by the time I left Iowa as a professor in 2018, the program was a much truer reflection of literature in this country. There were so many Black students from the U.S. and other parts of the world—the Caribbean, Ghana, Botswana, Nigeria, etc.—Latinx students, Asian students. Sam made it her mission to ensure the Workshop drew the best and brightest, which can’t truly happen if only one sort of person is admitted.” Yaa Gyasi, an Iowa alum and author of the novels Homegoing and Transcendent Kingdom, put it this way: “Lan Samantha Chang taught me the importance of being fiercely protective of your writing life, of keeping the work central, even as other things start to make demands. I wouldn’t have finished Homegoing without her.”

Doris Vilk (1)Chang also wanted to foster a climate not of competition but of cooperation, which meant leveling the funding process so all students got the same amount of financial support. Previously, the amount of aid students received depended on what faculty thought of their work, but under Chang, that changed. She says that “this was important to free people up to do more innovative work—to write what they really wanted to.” The program began to encompass writers of science fiction and fantasy, and other, more experimental work. “This was necessary,” Chang felt, “because Iowa is the first and in many ways the seminal creative writing program in the country, so it’s essential we reflect not only America’s growing diversity but also the complex mix of writers and cultures that are now our country.”

One of those writers is Chang herself, whose new novel, The Family Chao (Norton), is a harrowing, mysterious, and at times hilarious reimagining of The Brothers Karamazov. In it, a Chinese American restaurateur in Wisconsin is murdered, and one of his sons is accused of the crime.

Chang believes teaching has helped her grow as a writer. For the new book, she says, “I was inspired by my students, freed by the gradual recognition that I no longer had to strictly adhere to all the rules of writing that had been taught to me by my professors.” She says: “There’s a cross-pollination of words and thoughts and ideas that takes place in our community that makes possible the evolution of a literary generation.”

—Leigh Haber


Isabel Allende is one of literature’s foremost writers. But it’s her dedication to women’s rights that has truly transformed lives.

Isabel Allende’s biography reads like something straight out of one of her novels, the latest of which is Violeta (Ballantine). The heroine of the exotic epistolary tale is looking back at her epic life from age 100, having survived the Spanish flu, the Great Depression, a daughter’s death, and much else. Now she’s chronicling that expansive existence for her grandson, from her deathbed.

In real life, Allende will be 80 years old in August. She was born in Peru to Chilean parents, but when her parents separated, she returned to Chile with her mother and siblings to live with her grandparents. Allende was 4 at the time. She spent the next years devouring many of the books in the family library, and developed a reputation for speaking up, even daring to argue religion and politics with her grandfather, a strict Catholic. Allende says she was a feminist by the time she attended kindergarten, though she didn’t have a name for it. Decades later, in 1973, her cousin Salvador Allende, then president of Chile, died in a military coup, and Chile’s government fell to a dictatorship. By that time, she was married with two children and worked as a journalist for a progressive women’s magazine that tackled such verboten topics as abortion, contraception, divorce, and domestic violence. In 1975, Allende was blacklisted by the Chilean government and forced to leave the country.

Update your reading list for 2022. We have great reading on Doris Vilk’s website just waiting! Get ready to experience the best of romance, mystery, and passion. Visit us online to get your copies of the novels in the Chatham Series!

Reference: [https://www.oprahdaily.com/entertainment/books/a38554499/lit-up/]


    Contact with us

    Fill in the details below and our expert will give you a call.