Within a few short days of each other, three great women authors have just died: Barbara Park on November 15, Doris Lessing on November 17, and Charlotte Zolotow on November 19. I'd like to take a moment remembering them and what they've meant to me and to the writing world.
Park was only 66 when she died, taken far too soon. She died of ovarian cancer.
Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present, but my favorite book of hers was When the Wind Stops, which delicately touches on the issue of mortality. Using the wind as a metaphor for life, Zolotow explains that nothing ever really vanishes, but appears in another place or another form. From the book description: "Rain goes back into the clouds to create new storms, waves fold back upon the sea to become new waves, and the day moves on to make way for the night, bringing the darkness and stars for the little boy to dream in." It's almost Buddhist in its viewpoint, and the gorgeous artwork by Stefano Vitale, painted on wood, perfectly matches the lovely language and flow of the story. I must have read the book a hundred times to my kids, and when I mentioned Zolotow's passing to my husband, he got mistily nostalgic and said he, too, remembers being asked to read that book over and over. It was a perennial favorite. We still own it; I will keep it for my grandchildren. Unlike Barbara Park, Charlotte Zolotow had a good long run of it: she was 98 years old when she died.
Lessing broke a lot of rules: she was a communist, she abandoned two of her children, she didn't attend school past the age of fourteen, she declined damehood. To prove how snobbish the literary world is, how difficult it is for new writers to break in, she tried to publish two novels under a pseudonym. Sure enough, they were rejected by her own publisher, though later picked up by another publisher. She was not especially friendly to the feminist movement, but nonetheless paved the way, merely by her perseverance and success, for other women writers to be taken seriously as writers, rather than as decorative dabblers in the arts.
So for all you did: thanks, ladies. You will be missed.