10 Innovative Women Writers From The Heartland
The best books—the ones you keep on your shelf forever—are the ones that surprise you. Be it an author’s keen sense of observation; a blending of genre you’ve never seen before, or a boldness of voice; it’s innovative literature that strikes hottest.
On the tail of the second annual Women’s March, we’re thinking about books by women that have caught our attention in recent years. In celebration of female voices, we’ve gathered a list of ten inventive and daring female authors from the heartland whose work continues to invigorate contemporary literature.
Renaissance woman and Logan Square native Dr. Eve Ewing’s first book, “Electric Arches,” was named one of the Chicago Tribune’s Top 10 Books of 2017. In this collection that blends poetry, prose and visual art, Ewing slips back and forth between realism and the surreal to weave poignant and precise narratives about Black girlhood and growing up in Chicago.
For more than three decades, Thylias Moss has published daring new work that pushes the bounds of what poetry can achieve. With visually lush and lyrical lines, Moss’ poems are ones that beg to be read aloud. An Ohio native, Moss has been a professor at the University of Michigan since 1993.
Mary Jo Bang
The author of numerous collections of poetry, Bang’s most recent books include a contemporary and effervescent translation of Dante’s “Inferno” and a collection of prose poems that gives voice to Bauhaus art photographer Lucia Moholy. With great energy and clarity of vision, Bang, a St. Louis native, bridges the gap between history and the current moment.
Erika L. Sanchez
2017 was a big year for Illinois native Erika L. Sanchez. Her poetry collection, “Lessons on Expulsion,” debuted to critical acclaim, and her Young Adult novel, “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter,” published just a few months later, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Both books paint vibrant, complex portraits of female and Mexican American identity.
Kansas City writer Anne Boyer’s poems and essays on everything from politics to writer’s block to illness and medical care are consistently lyric and gorgeous even in their exploration of dark terrain. Her forthcoming book, “The Undying,” charts the experience of facing diagnosis and treatment for an aggressive type of breast cancer.
Winner of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction, the stories in Meagan Cass’ “ActivAmerica” collection are inventive, nostalgic and often-eerie narratives that highlight the central role that athletics and competition play in North American lives.
In her most recent book, “Margaret the First,” Danielle Dutton fictionalizes the life of Margaret Cavendish, a wonderfully unconventional English writer who wrote poems, plays and science fiction during the 17th century. It’s Dutton’s luminous, quick prose that makes this historical novel feel entirely modern.
Illinois native Kate Zambreno’s writing pushes boldly and fluidly into difficult subjects like mental illness and grief. “Heroines,” which is part memoir and part essay, is a feminist examination of the wives of famous literary figures like F. Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce. Her most recent title, “Book of Mutter,” is a beautiful and haunting meditation on the loss of her mother, writing and art.
Michigan poet Diane Seuss’ most recent collection, “Four-Legged Girl,” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Brimming full of magnetism, each poem in “Four-Legged Girl” feels like a short tale that contains whole worlds.
Hailed as one of the best books of 2017 by numerous publications, Lockwood’s memoir “Priestdaddy” is a hilarious yet earnest story of growing up as the daughter of a (eccentric, to put it mildly) Catholic priest.