On Reading Female Authors: Or, How I Learned to Love the 21 st Century by Emma Eisler

As many people reading this may know, I spent the first two years of my high school experience reading a lot, and I do mean a lot, of dead male authors. This began with my heady and emotionally tumultuous reading of On the Road in the middle of freshman year and continued on with shorter and slightly less passionate love affairs with Hunter S. Thompson, Henry Miller, Hemingway, and a host of other narcissists who many of us know and, rightfully, adore. This is not to say that I never read books by women or that I was intentionally avoiding leading a more varied literary life, but, if we’re being honest, a large percentage of my reading did fit into that category.

Then I started junior year and realized I needed, badly, to expand my horizons and, maybe even more importantly, become a little less obsessed with past decades or movements I’d missed and a little more obsessed with all the great books being written right now and all the potential energy of this decade. And so I read Karen Russell. And then I read Miranda July. And then I read Maria Semple. And then I read Aimee Bender. And then I read Marina Keegan. And, most importantly, I read Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being. And it changed everything. Here was this woman who I’d never before met writing down pretty much my exact manifesto on how I want to live—always remembering to be grateful for and to fully inhabit every day and every moment. This, I think, was the moment I became a modern girl, and by that I don’t mean that I suddenly relinquished my cape of nostalgia or downloaded a snap-chat. What I mean is, after sixteen years of trying to travel backwards in time with a respectable degree of success, I started wanting, not to go forwards even, but to exist and make the most of exactly where I am. Right now.

Emma Eisler, class of 2017

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