Giveaways Inspirations and Influences

Guest Author (& Giveaway): Neesha Meminger on Inspirations and Influences

Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their…well, Inspirations and Influences. The cool thing is that the writers are given free reign so they can go wild and write about anything they want. It can be about their new book, series or about their career as a whole.

Neesha Meminger is the inspiring author behind the awesome contemporary YA novels Shine, Coconut Moon and Jazz in Love. After Ana read and LOVED both she invited the author to talk about her inspirations and influences – and was delighted when she said yes.

Please give a warm welcome to Neesha!

My biggest inspirations and influences were feminist writers. But wait – let me go back a bit. When I was younger, I really loved the tikki-tikki-tembo story. It’s the first story I remember really loving. I heard it in the library when I was, maybe, in third grade. The librarian read it aloud to the class and I was absolutely immersed. Could be because the story was about a boy with a name no one could pronounce, a name that was long and weird and foreign (like mine), but I completely related to that boy in the story.

After that, another librarian introduced me to S.E. Hinton’s novels. Again, I was completely astounded that there were young people in the world who felt as out of place as I did. I read every single novel I could find by Ms. Hinton.

The next few novels I sought out were more about learning about my body, the strange new land and customs I’d been dropped into, and the very forbidden world of teen dating and relationships. So, I read a lot of Judy Blume and Paula Danziger. Maybe today, these would be considered “chick lit” novels, but for me, they were critical glimpses into an exotic and elusive culture. I was not allowed to date, I was not allowed to go out with friends and I was too embarrassed to invite friends over to my house, so I was quite socially isolated and alienated. These books, then, were a far more intimate window onto a world my parents worked hard to steer me clear of. They were so much more than “chick lit” for me. Through these novels, I learned about pop culture, I learned about the customs and traditions of teens I went to school with—since I was allowed no social contact with them, this was one way for me to get to know my peers, without getting in trouble with my parents. I didn’t know it then, but I was drawn to these stories primarily because they were told by women who positioned girls and women front and center—as the creators of their own destinies. These were stories of girls and women who challenged the norms and mores of their time, bucked convention, and refused to settle in their pre-defined “place.”

So, fast forward to eighteen and up. This was when I discovered feminist writers. I searched them out on purpose now, rather than finding them by accident or by referral. A friend introduced me to the works of Marion Zimmer Bradley and I quickly discovered the depth of my love for feminist speculative fiction and fantasy. I then found Elaine Bergstrom’s feminist vampire tales, Octavia Butler’s works, the essays of bell hooks, Marge Piercy’s Woman On the Edge of Time, Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider and her poetry, June Jordan, and others. I had come home.

I found my reality reflected in the words of these women writers. It was my truth written without apology, without shame, and with a kind of power and beauty I had never seen in relation to myself. I consumed these works and others like them, voraciously. They helped me locate discarded and forgotten pieces of myself and claim them again. They also led me to reading works by authors like James Baldwin, Jeanette Winterson, Dorothy Alison, Junot Diaz, and Linda Hogan. Entirely new worlds and realities unfolded for me. I discovered how much I actually have in common with others in various struggles, and how powerful the written word can be in transforming lives.

Because of these works and these authors, I was inspired to share my experience through story. I wanted to put my words down so that someone, at some point, might be moved to claim forgotten and discarded pieces of themselves. If I managed to do that with just one person, this battle to put my work in the public sphere would all have been worth it.

Thank you, Neesha!

Giveaway Details:

The author is generously giving away one copy of Shine, Coconut Moon and one copy of Jazz in Love to ONE lucky winner. This giveaway is open to everyone, and will be open until Saturday, March 5 at 11:59PM (PST). In order to enter, leave a comment here letting us know what is your favourite feminist writer or book. Good luck!

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58 Comments

  • Steph Burgis
    March 3, 2011 at 2:50 am

    I loved this entry! And I’d love to be entered in the drawing. One of my favorite feminist books is Carolyn Knapp’s Appetites: Why Women Want. Really, really powerful and thought-provoking.

  • Hannah
    March 3, 2011 at 3:15 am

    This might be one of my favourite ‘Inspirations and Influences’ posts ever. <3 Fabulous, fabulous taste in literature right there, it's like a list of all of my favourite feminist authors, except for my above-all favourite, Angela Carter. Angela Carter is controversial and some people think her books are all the same, and focus too much on metaphor and 'pretention'. But I love them with a power that burns – to me, metaphors are a fun way of telling people really important things. And nobody does metaphor like Carter. I was just re-reading 'The Passion of New Eve' last week and remembered all over again how much I love it for being insane and crazy and mad and horrifying but then ultimately so uplifting and true that by the time I finish I'm crying.

    Although 'The Bloody Chamber' is also fabulous. Best short stories ever.

  • Lucia
    March 3, 2011 at 4:54 am

    I don’t know if it can be consider feminist but I love Alice Munro’s books. I find them very powerful and haunting.
    I also love Beloved, a great book everyone should read

  • Anne M Leone
    March 3, 2011 at 7:01 am

    Oh, I would love to read Neesha’s books!
    This isn’t as intellectual as her answers, but I’ve really been inspired by feminist heroes in genre fiction. Growing up, Maigrey in The Lost King by Margaret Weis showed me that women didn’t have to be sweet and gentle. More recently, Katsa in Graceling by Kristin Cashore showed that butt-kicking heroes can have doubts and fears, too.

  • Rebecca
    March 3, 2011 at 7:14 am

    Marion Zimmer Bradley. When I read The Mists of Avalon my life as a reader changed. I loved King Arthur lore (to this day I count The Once and Future King as one of my deserted island books.)and the idea that the women in the story were far more powerful and significant than portrayed by T.H. White and Sir Thomas Malory just made my heart soar.

    I really enjoyed Ms. Meminger’s “Inspirations and Influences” and would love to have copies of these books.

  • Sayantani DasGupta
    March 3, 2011 at 7:33 am

    Great post Neesha! I too ‘found myself’ in novels of women of color like “Brown Girl, Brownstones” or the work of Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, Isabel Allende the theory and essays of Gloria Anzaldua and Cherrie Moraga (This Bridge Called my Back, Haciendo Caras), global authors like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Salman Rushdie, and Rohinton Misry, the poetry of Nikki Giovanni.. the list goes on!
    No need to sign me up for the drawing as I have your books! But wanted to give a *cheer* for such a terrific and inspiring post!

  • SandyG265
    March 3, 2011 at 7:34 am

    I read the Outsiders and This Is then That Was Now when I was in school.

  • Gerd D.
    March 3, 2011 at 8:00 am

    Favourite feminist writer… can I say Shere Hite?
    I found that reading her “The New Hite Report” certainly influenced my view of women more than any other read.

    In fiction I’m tempted to say Kathryn Ptacek editor of “Women of Darkness,” a great collection of stories from female and feminist Horror writers.

  • Su
    March 3, 2011 at 8:06 am

    Oh, dear, I think I have a new author crush. 😳 I too am a brown girl raised in a foreign land, but I took solace in comic books and scifi.

    The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge, is one of my favourites. I first read it when I was about ten years old, and every few years I keep rereading it. With each reading, I discover something new about the book and about myself.

    Recently, I’ve also enjoyed Jim C. Hines’ Princess Series. He is very out-spoken about his beliefs and it shows in his writing.

    Thank you for this awesome post and the giveaway.

  • Ellie
    March 3, 2011 at 8:23 am

    Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper

  • Katy
    March 3, 2011 at 8:30 am

    Little Women by Louisa May Alcott….Jo is one of my all-time favorite characters!

  • jpetroroy
    March 3, 2011 at 8:36 am

    I’d have to agree with Alcott’s Little Women

  • laura k
    March 3, 2011 at 8:50 am

    This guest post got me really excited to read not just Neesha Meminger, but some of the other authors she mentions, as well. My background in feminist reading is definitely more of the non-fiction variety (I was a women’s studies major). Looking at my shelves, I think there are a lot of authors I consider very woman positive, but I’m surprised at how few there are who are explicitly feminist. I think I need to fix this.

  • Ceilidh
    March 3, 2011 at 8:51 am

    This is a great entry, and hi to Neesha! *wave*

    I think describing someone as a feminist writer or feminist book can be difficult and extremely subjective. I agree wih the person above who said Angela Carter, I adore her work. Her imagination makes me toes curl with envy!

    To go outside the box a bit, my new feminist hero in fiction is Mattie Ross from True Grit. She’s a 14 year old girl out to avenge the murder of her father and she is far too much of an inspiration for me. She’s headstrong, a little stubborn, very determined to the point of single mindedness, she’s extremely mature and determined to prove that she deserves all the respect given to the grown up men around her, and she often proves herself to be intellectually superior to them! If you haven’t read the book by Charles Portis or seen the Coen Brothers movie (the John Wayne one’s just so inferior in comparison and doesn’t do Mattie justice) I urge you to do so. Mattie fights and fights to get respect, despite her age, sex and position in society, and you better damn well believe she gets it!

    Okay, I have been fangirling this book extensively since I read it. Forgive me. 😆

  • Kaethe
    March 3, 2011 at 9:10 am

    I’m especially fond of Fledgling, mostly as an antidote to the horrible non-feminist Twilight.

  • Nikki Egerton
    March 3, 2011 at 9:20 am

    I very recently read Fire by Kristen Cashore and absolutely loved the heroine in that . She knows her own mind and impressing a man is nowhere near the top of her list or priorities. Since I started concentrating properly on my own writing, I notice a lot more the way a character is written, and care about their motivations a lot more than I used to.

    Thank you! 🙂

  • alana
    March 3, 2011 at 10:14 am

    As someone who identifies strongly with feminism, it was really refreshing to read this post. Love it.

    Two of my favorite feminist books are non-fiction (The Purity Myth and Female Chauvinist Pigs) because they helped me put words to feelings and concerns I had at the time (though I do take issue with some things in both these books). When it comes to fiction though, Lyra from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials is still one of my favorite characters. I’m all about the strong female protagonist. Right no I’m in the middle of Elissa Malcohn’s Deviations (#1) and I’m loving it.

  • Rachel
    March 3, 2011 at 10:16 am

    I love Octavia Butler with all my heart and soul. Her “Lilith’s Brood” series will always, to me, be the definitive exploration of gender in speculative fiction.

  • jenmitch
    March 3, 2011 at 10:50 am

    this is a great post, i can’t wait to read neesha meminger!

    recently, i’ve been totally loving nk jemisin. an all time favorite female author of mine is margaret atwood. she’s just incredible and the blind assassin is one of the best books i’ve ever read.

  • Ceilidh
    March 3, 2011 at 10:52 am

    @Alana: I LOVE The Purity Myth, it’s my go-to recommendation for people looking for an introduction to feminist writing. The abstinence movement both fascinates and horrifies me.

  • Katy F.
    March 3, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Great post! 😀

    Margaret Atwood blew my mind with The Handmaid’s Daughter. Such a fantastic book. I’ve been wanting to read another by her–sounds like Blind Assassin should be on my list (thanks for the recommendation jenmitch!).

  • Kathy Checkley
    March 3, 2011 at 11:49 am

    The author I love may or may not be a feminist, but her female characters are strong and believable. If you haven’t read Elinor Lipman, do so!

  • Marie B.
    March 3, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    What a fantastic post! I’m going to have to echo another commenter and say that Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon was huge for me when I read it at age 13. I was reading everything King Arthur at the time, and to read a version where the women were not only the focus of the book but the typically “evil” character was made the protagonist in a way far more complex than simply making her a stereotypically “good” heroine was eye-opening for me at the time.

    The second one that comes to mind is Laurie R. King’s Russell-Holmes series. King gives Sherlock Holmes a teenage girl apprentice who can match him in intellect in the first book, Beekeeper’s Apprentice, and it’s been a wonderful ride watching the character and their relationship grow as the series progresses. (And yes, I too thought the idea of a ~45 yr-old Holmes having a 15 year old teenage girl apprentice was somewhat ridiculous when a friend described the series to me, but the series – and the first book in particular – is possibly my favorite of all time.)

  • Scribe Kira
    March 3, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    i really looooooooooove the hunger games trilogy, which, i personally always felt was feminist.

    however, one that focuses more on the topic of feminism, i’d have to say the disreputable history of frankie landau-banks by e. lockhart.

    awesome. =o)

  • Alexandra
    March 3, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    I don’t really read feminist fiction, not because I’m not a feminist, but because I tend to stay away from “issues” books (I know that’s probably not the healthiest way to choose books). The books I like that are closest to being “feminist” are those in Lioness series by Tamora Pierce. I absolutely love the series. It definitely has some strong feminist elements, even if it’s only treated in a fantasy setting. Also, the Protector of the Small is really good as well.

  • Em
    March 3, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    I love love love love love Octavia Butler!

  • heather
    March 3, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Wonderful post…
    As a kid, I really related to Judy Bloom (as most of my generation did). Not sure if it’s considered feminist or not, but I very much enjoyed Kristin Cashore’s “Graceling.” Katsa was so strong and true to herself. It was refreshing to read such a heroine.

  • heather
    March 3, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    (darn iPhone autocorrect! I meant Blume, not Bloom above.)

  • danielle
    March 3, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    i can not get enough of Staceyann Chin.

  • meredith g
    March 3, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Tamora Pierce was my first introduction to feminist writers, so I have to say her. She’s amazing.

  • Tina
    March 3, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    My favorite feminist writer is Tamora Pierce. I love her empowering heroines and also her male characters. There’s a nice balance between strengths and flaws so it feels more real and less like there’s an image of Wonder Woman to live up to.

  • Amy C
    March 3, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    Sarah Rees Brennan, hands down. Not only does The Demon’s Lexicon feature two kick-butt heroines, but Ms. Brennan also posts periodically about how gender standards applied by society make her sad.

    So, SRB for certain.

  • Rachel
    March 3, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Great post! My favorite feminist writer seems to change weekly — whether it’s Jean Craighead George for her Julie of the Wolves books, Suzanne Collins for The Hunger Games, or Toni Morrison for, well, anything, I try to read as much feminist fiction and nonfiction as possible. And just as important to me is fiction about queer, multicultural and otherwise marginalized people.

    Thanks!

  • Victoria Zumbrum
    March 3, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    I don’t think she is a feminist but my favorite author is Stephanie Meyers and Twilight series. Please enter me in contest. Tore923@aol.com

  • Kate & Zena
    March 3, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    It’s hard to pick one because most authors whom we, as readers, would consider “feminist authors” never thought of themselves as “feminist authors” until they were asked about it. I also read so many that it’s hard to just pick one!

    One author I see consistently strong female characters from and challenges the ideals of women in today’s society is Scott Westerfeld. He’s the one I would pick as my favorite feminist author at the moment–as feminist authors can be both male or female (although, the vast majority seem to be female). I loved The Uglies Trilogy (I pretend Extras didn’t happen. It doesn’t flow with the rest of the series); I can’t wait for the final installment of The Leviathan Trilogy.

  • Jen B.
    March 3, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    Wow, I really enjoyed your blog. I would love to read your books. I have begun reading more YA books. Your influences are so interesting and good.

  • Llehn
    March 3, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    I love both Graceling and Fire.

  • Priya
    March 3, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    Little Women by Louisa May Alcott- Jo is incredible!!

    Thanks for the giveaway =]

    swaid124(at)gmail(dot)com

  • mikhaila
    March 3, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    my fave at the moment is( like fledgling) also a antidote to twilight
    Sunshine, by Robin Mckinly
    and incidently one of the best books i’ve ever read

  • Josephine
    March 3, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    I agree, Little Women! Jo reminds me of me!

  • Carol Thompson
    March 3, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    I don’t specifically read a lot of feminist type of books. I find that over the past few years especially in YA and Urban Fantasy with most of the heroes being female there has been a lot of attention paid to strong woman anyway.

    I would probably agree with an earlier post that Marion Zimmer Bradley was one who wrote about strong women.

    Even in popular epic fantasy such as The Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steve Erikson, we have very strong female characters.

    Thanks for the giveaway.

    Carol T

    buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

  • Jaz Parks
    March 3, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    Eleaonor Roosevelt. :B

    Thanks for the giveaway!

    Jaz

  • Katy
    March 4, 2011 at 5:15 am

    I’d have to say Tamora Pierce. =)

  • Audra Holtwick
    March 4, 2011 at 9:02 am

    I love Marion Zimmer Bradley- MISTS OF AVALON ROCKS!!!!!!!!!

  • Linds @ Bibliophile Brouhaha
    March 4, 2011 at 10:23 am

    I love the writings of belle hooks. I have a copy of her Teaching Community, and it meant so much to me as I was getting my Master’s in Education. I think the points she made in it can be applied to a multitude of areas.

    If I go with fiction, I would have to say A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – just try and tell me that those Rommely women didn’t run their lives by their own reins!

  • Michelle M
    March 4, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    You ladies have me so curious about these books from all the great reviews you’ve put up. I’ve already got them ILLed so hopefully I’ll get to experience the awesome soon too 😉

    As for fav feminist writers – I think I read every single Judy Blume book growing up and just loved her stuff too. Also, Tamora Pierce. Alanna is the definition of an empowered female.

  • Amanda Isabel
    March 4, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Ah, S.E. Hinton was one of my favourites back then – she was the only one who could make me think beyond the strangeness of a name like Ponyboy. I think I was about eleven when I began hitting the feminist books hard, and I of course started with The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, and then quickly moved on towards Elizabeth Wurtzel. Of all the feminist things I have read, I think I would have to say my favourite is probably Margaret Atwood – though I don’t agree with her all the time (especially when it comes to law), I do like her feminist approach to writing. Thanks!
    apereiraorama[at]gmail[dot]com

  • Alex
    March 4, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Ever since I picked up my first Nancy Drew at the tender age of eight, I’ve tended to gravitate towards books with female protagonists that kick butt. But it wasn’t until I started reading Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley that I started to realize exactly *how* much I liked stories about strong women and girls.

  • Leanna Hiner
    March 4, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    I like Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

  • Mariska
    March 4, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    I’m not sure whether i had read a feminist author before. but i would really like to read this book. enter me in please.

  • Rachael L
    March 4, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    I enjoy Judy Blume and Louisa May Alcott as feminist writers. Thank you for the giveaway!

  • Ellie
    March 5, 2011 at 11:15 am

    mmmmm, my favorite feministe book is Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins 😀

    Thanks for the giveaway!!! ^^

  • Kirkus MacGowan
    March 5, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Am I allowed to enter for my wife? She is obsessed with Janet Evanovich and I’m trying to get her to expand her horizons. Don’t get me wrong, Stephanie Plum is pretty cool, but I can only stand her style of feisty for so long.

  • Laura Lanik (Booksnob)
    March 5, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Favorite feminist writer is Erica Jong who penned the classic Fear of Flying. In the 70’s men assumed they would “get lucky” if they saw that book on a woman’s shelf. LOL

  • Susan
    March 5, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    I think my favourites would have to be Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley – Tamora Pierce SQUEAKING past as my true blue favourite (McKinley’s stuff seems to wobble around a lot towards the end, while Tamora Pierce’ stuff stays awesome the whole way through.)

    Both of them have awesome heroines at varying levels of badassery in a fantasy setting, all of their female characters are well developed and willing to take charge of their destinies (and it’s nice to see fantasy heroines who hook up with people and then CHANGE THEIR MINDS, and have the right to not change it back – after reading a lot of WE ARE DESTINED TO BE TOGETHER FOREVER books, these a great change.).

  • Lisa
    March 5, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    I loved Octavia Butler’s “Kindred”! Please enter me in the giveaway! Thanks so much!!

  • ChrisB
    March 6, 2011 at 9:55 am

    My favorite feminist writer/book is Margret Atwood’s The Handmaids Tale

  • McLicious
    March 6, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Yay for Neesha! I loved SHINE and can’t wait for JAZZ. I really loved Margaret Atwood’s PENELOPIAD, because I love taking classic stories and writing them from new perspectives, telling the other side of the story.

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