Local feminist author to speak at Blaine library

Published on Thu, Mar 20, 2008 by Tara Nelson

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Local feminist author to speak at Blaine library

By Tara Nelson

In 1994, three book-loving friends, Jesse Larsen, Erica Bauermeister and Holly Smith, wanted a convenient, content-rich guide to the great works of female authors. So they decided to write one themselves.
From Sylvia Plath’s pre-suicidal book Bell Jar and Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find, to Elaine Brown’s autobiography, A Taste of Power, about the seeming irrelevance of a woman’s place in the Black Panther Party, 500 Great Books by Women showcases some of the most notable works by women writers ranging from contemporary to as far back as the 13th Century.

The easy-to-navigate book is organized by 21 subjects ranging from art and violence to mothering and growing old. It also contains separate indexes on books by author, title, and country as well as genre.

Larsen, a Seattle native and self-proclaimed “working-class feminist” said she began writing at a young age but did not publish her first book until the age of 50.

She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in writing from Antioch University in Seattle in 1992. Later that year, she moved to Vermont to complete the Masters of Fine Arts degree in writing and literature at Goddard College in 1995. She moved to Bellingham in 2004 and will speak at Blaine’s public library at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 26. Admission is free.

Q: What inspired you to co-write this book?

A: “When I started Antioch, my first advisor suggested I study the literary tradition of working class women writers.

I was eager to do this but as I quickly discovered, there were no easy ways to find the authors whose works I needed to read. I wanted a book that would introduce me to the many women in my literary tradition.

“So, as Alice Walker tells us, when we need a book that isn’t written yet, it is up to us to write it. I started the book as an independent study project during my last year at Goddard. Then I met and began working with Erica and Holly and together we wrote an important book for everyone.”

Q: In your book, you describe yourself as a “working-class feminist.” Explain.

A: “When I call myself a working-class feminist, I mean that I place class, gender, and race at the center of my inquiry and worldview.”

Q: What is one of your favorite books and why?

A: “I love too many books to have a single favorite but Alice Munro is my favorite author and I still dearly love Lynda Berry’s book, The Good Times Are Killing Me.”

Q: Can you give us a sneak peek into your next novel, “Shifting Sideways”?

A: “My novel, Shifting Sideways, is about a working-class American family and has since grown into a multi-volume work that is still in progress. The first volume, All Mama Wanted, is finished but is yet unpublished.”

Larsen’s book is available at Amazon.com and at the library. Larsen’s web site is located at www.jesselarsen.com.