Tag Archives: research

Guest Post: Required Reading

15 Feb


Hello Readers,
I have a treat to share today, in the form of my very first guest post! See, a few weeks ago, I was contacted by a reader, Margaret, who found my card. Margaret, as it turns out (and as she’ll explain below) is a bit of a literature expert and enthusiast. When she wrote into me with some book suggestions for the IWOM Book Club, I was so impressed by her due diligence I asked her if I could share it here and she agreed. I’m so glad to have made Margaret’s acquaintance and hope we can meet for tea someday and to poke around old book stores. I also hope you enjoy her book reviews as much as I did.


Jenny G.


Hey Jenny,

I hope you don’t mind me butting in about your blog, but I found your calling card a few weeks ago downtown. My name’s Margaret, and I love books. I love books so much that I hope it will be okay for me to submit for your consideration a reading list, since I agree with you that an International Woman of Mystery should always be well read.

It’s not too long or pedantic (I hope!) It’s a few titles written by or featuring really bad ass women, women of mystery, women of strength, women who are working to find their place in the world. Not to say that this is the end all, be all, because while I think literature can challenge you and change you, sometimes it’s nice to read something that’s pleasurable. I don’t think books need to be difficult or obscure to be of value.

That said, let’s start with a challenge. I’m sure it’s the English major in me coming out, but to me, one of the original strong women is Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath from The Canterbury Tales. If you’re up for an adventure and want to spend some time looking up words in the dictionary, you can read it in the original Middle English, or you can find a translation and start there. The Wife is on a pilgrimage with an incredibly diverse group of characters in the 1400s, at a time when women were the property of their father or their husband, and they were little seen and certainly not heard. And yet, she’s on her pilgrimage, not as a nun, but as a bawdy, funny, spirited individual, talking openly about her marriages and her desire for another husband (or two, maybe!) What is always amazing to me is the familiarity in the Wife and in her tale, though she and I are separated by hundreds of years of time and many, MANY radical shifts in culture and conduct. I think hers is a worthy story, and the act of reading about her is an interesting history lesson.

From challenge to “chick lit.” I love Jennifer Weiner’s novels (I particularly love her break up book Good in Bed) and I also love her as an author and an advocate. Her books are about the lives of women – they’re real and they’re accessible and they make me feel like I’m talking to a great friend who also happens to be able to say the things I can’t say in words in exactly the right way. I also love that Weiner has been very public in her defense of so called “chick lit” and the art of reading for pure pleasure and entertainment. She’s gone toe to toe with The New York Times and challenged the boys club nature of who they choose to review in their book section, and uses her platform as a successful author to advocate for more equality in publishing.

Also an amazing person in addition to author is Margaret Atwood, and I’m not just mentioning her because we share a name. Her writing is bad ass and she IS a bad ass. She writes about dystopias (if you liked any Hunger Games, you’ll love The Handmaid’s Tale) and wild science fiction just as well as she writes about the lives and friendships of women. My favorite of hers is The Blind Assassin, which is a love story, a mystery story and the story of the relationship between two sisters – a Woman of Mystery could definitely learn from the way the main character Iris uncoils the details of the story slowly and slyly.

And if you’re looking for something different, she has short stories, poetry collections and works of nonfiction. She’s so prodigious that she’s the first author in the Future Library Project, having submitted a book in 2015 that won’t be read by anyone until 2114. It makes me jealous of my grandchildren, that they’ll get to enjoy Atwood’ dark humor and beautiful writing and the surprise of a novel that’s been just waiting a hundred years to be discovered.

I know that you have felt a lot of upheaval in leaving Boston for Denver, and so I think you’d like reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s Pultizer Prize winning story collection The Interpreter of Maladies, because she focuses on the immigrant experience and the way we assimilate and assume new identities when we change our location and our culture. Her writing is so simple and her stories are incredibly moving.

Lastly, I’m recommending this book because it’s my all time favorite novel. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende tells the story of three generations of uniquely powerful women while also telling the history of Chile’s political upheavals in the 20th century. It’s magical realism, Allende’s beautiful writing, and a story that’s both unbelievable and true at the same time.

So again, forgive the intrusion and the influx of opinions, but I hope this gives you a little something to add to your reading queue- does an International Woman of Mystery carry a library card?

Sincerely, Margaret


Why can’t I have my own Bond Movie?

22 Sep


Between my work-from-anywhere marketing research job, I started binge-watching James Bond movies.

When I was in high school, my dad and I watched these movies together. I remember getting blissfully lost in the exotic locales and charming appeal of the hero.

We never traveled as a family, so watching James Bond made me feel like I was leaving the depressing confines of my hometown: London today, Thailand tomorrow. I lived vicariously through Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan.

Or was I living vicariously through the Bond girls, daydreaming of the day some man would save me with his adventures?

Now, as I watch Bond movie after Bond movie, I feel increasingly terrible, and also foolish for realizing so late how blatantly these movies exclude a woman’s personal journey. They are hero movies for men – the male protagonist’s adventures lead him to some grand pinnacle of personal achievement, thus creating his deep sense of self worth.

Women spectate. Women get romantic comedies, where marriage is the heroine’s happy denouement.

For most of my teens, I think I genuinely believed that if I became the object of a man’s desire, it meant I was doing something right. I placed my happiness in a man’s hands. How ridiculous to place my happiness in anyone’s hands but my own. I was smart in every other way, but so dumb when it came to valuing myself.

Over the years, I lost myself waiting for someone else to make me happy.

Now, going through this breakup, I yearn for some story, some pop culture compass to tell me what to do. Where is the movie about the woman that has nothing to do with a man? Those stories are out there, I know.

Where are the stories of the strong women who gracefully rebounded from personal loss by giving an opposite, positive force to the world? These are the confident woman who never used their relationships to validate their self-worth, the women who had more important things to do than lament what they were better off without, the well-rounded women whose every happiness didn’t hinge on the self-loathing temperament of a selfish man.

Forget James Bond. I want to be THAT woman. That is not who I am now, but mark my words: Someday, I will be that woman.

I will be the International Woman of Mystery.