Female Leads


#1 Sissy Hankshaw from Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins (1976).

Quote: Be your own flying saucer! Rescue yourself!

#2 Sylvia Cushman from Let the Dog Drive by David Bowman (1992).

Quote: “Orange Boy,” Sylvia said softly, “I’m saying this because you can still have your dish of magic…and I know no adult ever sat you down to ask you that essential question: ‘So young man, what do you intend to do with your life?'” She nodded for confirmation. “Well, I’m not going to ask you that one. I’m going to just tell you. You’ve read enough of those goddamn detective stories. Now sit down and write one.”

#3 Janie Crawford from Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937).

Quote: Janie did what she had never done before, that is, thrust herself into the conversation. “Sometimes God gits familiar wid us womenfolks too and talks His inside business. He told me how surprised He was ’bout y’all turning out so smart after Him makin’ yuh different; and how surprised y’all is goin’ tuh be if you ever find out you don’t know half as much ’bout us as you think you do. It’s so easy to make yo’self out God Almighty when you ain’t got nothin’ tuh strain against but women and chickens.”

#4 Mattie Ryder from Blue Shoe by Anne Lamott (2002).

Quote: Pauline was making nice when they went to the movies together that night. This put Mattie in an extremely sour mood. She and the kids had been late picking up Daniel and Pauline, because Harry would not wear anything over his T-shirt, although the night was cold, and it was hard for Mattie to stop trying to goad him or jerk him, because she was freezing. Pauline stood up for Harry when Mattie tried to blame him for their lateness. She said, “Weather Harry wants a sweater or not is really none of your business. He’s a big boy now,” and Harry signed with gratitude. Ella had dressed up in her parka with a furry hood. Mattie had wanted to grab Pauline by the throat, but she settled for two boxes of bonbons.

#5 Ursula Van Urden in Savage Girl by Alex Shakar (2001).

Quote: The extent to which people find their lives meaningful is directly proportional to their ability to allow themselves these kinds of delusions, but this intractable thing inside her, this immune system gone awry–this overactive bullshitological system–allows her no meaning whatsoever.

#6 Eleanor Vance from The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (1959).

Quote: “Nothing in this house moves,” Eleanor said, “until you look away, and then you just catch something from the corner of your eyes. Look at the little figurines on the shelves; when we all had our backs turned they were dancing with Theodora.”

#7 The Bogeywoman in Jaimy Gordon’s novel Bogeywoman (1999).

Quote: Willis Marie Bundgus would expect me to go north, light out for the bog country and the Canada border. Opportunity lay that way; as a schooled tracker I would find sumpm to eat, or if I was really determined to off myself there were funny-looking mushrooms everywhere. In fact hazards abounded, fertile danger a-plenty in that bog country; if a bear didn’t eat me, they might find me in a thousand years, a self-made bog woman–Boggywoman–intact in the peat, forever young though tough and red as a Western saddle.

#8 Norma Fontaine in Woman’s World by Graham Rawle (2005).

Quote: Why are women like her so frightened of glamour? They cannot bear to look at me. The reason, they say, is that I’m too glamorous. Either women must go on disguising themselves, behaving as he-men and being treated as such, or admit that they are feminine after all and watch the miraculous return of that charming old-world courtesy we woman have discouraged and made unfashionable.

#9 The unnamed wife in Jane Shapiro’s The Dangerous Husband (1999).

Quote: That devil! Because he was standing when I pressed the pillow against his face, just just stepped nearly backward, landing against the bedroom wall as if thrown there, his stiff bouncy penis already beginning to droop. Semen dripped down his thigh. He said, “So where’s your camera when you need it?” Absolutely right, Dennis. The picture I would’ve shot: my enemy, genitals pendent, back to the wall.

#10 Helga Crane from Quicksand by Nella Larsen (1928).

Quote: “Marriage–that means children, to me. And why add more suffering to the world? Why add any more unwanted, tortured Negroes to America? Why do Negroes have children? Surely it must be sinful. Think of the awfulness of being responsible for the giving of life to creatures doomed to endure such wounds to the flesh, such wounds to the spirit, as Negroes have to endure.”

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