I’ve long appreciated Women’s History Month because it gives us the opportunity to honor our foremothers and their words and actions that impact our lives today: Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the suffragettes who ultimately won our right to vote; Margaret Sanger, who championed a woman’s right to birth control; Betty Friedan, Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem and others who ignited a movement to “take action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society, exercising all privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men.” Their agenda is still a modern-day agenda: reproductive rights, economic justice, an end violence against women, constitutional equality, an end to racism.
But I’d like to highlight other significant female voices, those that have impacted my working life as an author. Two years ago, I ran across an enlightening article at Bustle.com. The author of the article, Sadie Trombetta, shone a spotlight on thirteen female writers “who have been breaking barriers, changing the rules, and challenging the status quo through their writing.” As I read the stories of their struggles and accomplishments, I became more and more energized.
Despite their global impact, however, women authors are often underrepresented in the publishing industry, bestseller lists, and literary awards. Yet, they continue to teach us and future generations of women writers that our voices are vital.
Trombetta’s article provides us with only a partial list of literary heroines: the Greek poet Sappho, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Edith Wharton (the first female to win a Pulitzer Prize in fiction for The Age of Innocence), Octavia Butler, Alice Walker (the first black woman to win a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award for The Color Purple).
Yet, there are so many others (too numerous to count) who are equally important: Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, George Eliot, Margaret Atwood, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Malala Yousafzai, Roxane Gay. And in coming months and years, the #ownvoices movement will introduce to us to even more diverse and marginalized voices that have been largely silenced.
In 2009, when I first decided I wanted to write fiction, I attended a women’s writing retreat at Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch sponsored by A Room of Her Own Foundation (AROHO). While there I heard a Virginia Woolf quote that I keep by my computer: “Be truthful, one would say, and the result is bound to be amazingly interesting.”
Many thanks to the amazingly interesting women authors who’ve come before me and those voices I’ve yet to discover. You are making history.
Mandy Mikulencak has been a writer her entire working life. First, as a newspaper reporter and then an editor and PR specialist for two national nonprofits and a United Nations agency. Her first book, Burn Girl, was honored with a 2016 Westchester Young Adult Fiction Award. She has written two works of historical fiction for Kensington Publishing’s John Scognamiglio imprint: The Last Suppers (December 2017) and Forgiveness Road (March 2019). www.mandymikulencak.com
In this powerful and ultimately uplifting new novel set in 1970s Mississippi, the acclaimed author of The Last Suppers tells of three generations of women whose lives are thrown into upheaval when a dark secret is brutally exposed. . .
On a hot, humid July morning, sixteen-year-old Cissy Pickering calmly and deliberately shoots her father in the back.
To their Mississippi community, the death of well-regarded attorney Richard Pickering is a fascinating scandal. To Cissy’s distraught mother, Caroline, it’s an unforgivable crime. But in Cissy’s troubled mind, killing her father was the only way she knew to save the two people she loves most in the world. For years, Cissy has endured a devil’s bargain with her father, hoping that he would leave her younger sisters alone if she kept hi
s abuse to herself. When that thin trust shattered, she saw no other choice. Janelle Clayton, the family’s matriarch, has kept her distance from her daughter, Caroline—a fact she now regrets—yet she hopes to do right by her granddaughter. Cissy has always been an unusual girl, given to compulsive counting and list-making, but Janelle believes her implicitly. When Cissy is remanded to the Greater Mississippi State Hospital, a caring psychiatrist tries to help, yet new revelations drive Cissy to retreat even further from reality. It will fall to Janelle, despite her own failing health, to become Cissy’s advocate and rescuer. And over the course of an unlikely road trip, Janelle and Cissy will confront the truths they’ve hidden from the world and themselves, finding courage, deep-rooted resilience, and a bond tender and tough enough to transform them both.
Praise For The Last Suppers
“In this novel of compassion, readers will find a humanizing light in a normally dark place.” —Booklist
“The Last Suppers held me riveted from the first page to the last, a gorgeous novel that finds beauty in the most unlikely of places. This story has the social conscience of The Help, the unflinching honesty of The Shawshank Redemption, and a wholly original heroine whose humanity will touch your heart as she cooks her way to redemption.” —Susan Wiggs, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“A haunting study of race relations, compassion, and mystery. A must read.” —Library Journal (Starred Review)
“A taut page-turner . . . had me in its grips to the shocking end of a well-crafted, gripping story.” —Anna Jean Mayhew, author of The Dry Grass of August
“A serious book, beautifully written . . . compelling and very very real.” —The New York Journal of Books
“Filled with heart and reverent solemnity, despair and hope, Mandy Mikulencak’s writing is a sensitive, thoughtful narrative about finding freedom beyond the boundaries of what we believe of ourselves and of our past. With captivating characters, a unique premise, and set in sultry Louisiana, this story is as rich and enticing as the last suppers prepared, one you will want to linger over until the very last page.” –Donna Everhart, author of The Education of Dixie Dupree
“Unrestrained in its honesty, this is one novel that will keep you thinking long after the last page is read.” –Historical Novels Society