Heroines in the bookstacks

I started working at GWL in 2005, as their first ever paid Librarian. As well as being somewhat daunting (yikes! what a responsibility!), it was a dream come true: to open up a treasure trove of books to women from all walks of life. Working in a library of donated books is something special. It’s lovely for someone to come in and spot a book that’s been life-changing for them, nestled safely on our bookshelves.

One of my favourite items in our collection is a beautiful copy of Their eyes were watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. First published in 1937, it follows a young woman’s quest for identity and love. It still amazes me that this book, now considered to be one of the most important novels in the canon of African-American literature, was dismissed at the time of its publication and out of print for 30 years, only to be rediscovered by Alice Walker in the 1970s.

002I read it in my early twenties when I was a student and was totally blown away by Hurston’s style of writing. It was like a nugget of rare gold on a literature course that was dominated by male writers. At the time, I didn’t have the knowledge or language to question the casually accepted under-representation of women writers, but after years as GWL Librarian, I certainly do now! In a way, the story of this book perfectly illustrates why GWL needs to exist. Women writers remain under-represented and undervalued, even in 2016, and we must be here to challenge that.

11 years on from my first day, it remains a joy work here. To be enriched by women writers from across the globe, and to be able to share that with others, is a real privilege.

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