Forgotten Transatlantic Literary Women: February Book Chat and New Year Reading List


As announced in our previous post, we would like to start 2018 by celebrating overlooked texts by transatlantic literary women, and we would love for you to get involved. In February, we will run another #TLWBookChat dedicated to forgotten texts. it will go by the hashtag #ForgottenTLW. This discussion will broadly tackle issues of history, and memory, in relation to women authors. We will be talking about neglected texts by famous women writers, but also (and especially) about transatlantic authors whose work has somehow been overlooked. What has prevented those women from gaining literary fame? Why are some texts privileged over others? To prepare for this discussion, we will post several blogs about neglected transatlantic literary women. We would also like to ask you to make a case for a forgotten text or writer that you think would deserve to be in the limelight! You can send us your posts at by the end of February, along with a short bio! We will publish contributions as we receive them.

To kick off this series, we come to you with some suggestions of books to read ahead of our discussion! We compiled a list of neglected texts by women writers from both sides of the Atlantic to give you some reading ideas. While some names will probably have a familiar ring to them, we tried to choose slightly less canonical titles for this list, and we also hope that you’ll be in for some discoveries…

1) Simone de Beauvoir (1908 – 1986), America Day by Day (1948)

As if the influence of her landmark analysis of femininity, The Second Sex (Le Deuxième Sexe), was not enough of a claim to transatlantic fame, Simone de Beauvoir also spent several months in America in 1947. Her travel diary, America Day by Day, published in 1948, recounts her impressions of the country, from New York to Los Angeles and Chicago, where she met her lover Nelson Algren. Published two years before The Second Sex, the text poses Beauvoir as ‘an intuitive sociologist’ and ‘a voyeur of America’s transient underbelly’ in the words of critic Douglas Brinkley.

2) Leonora Carringon (1917 – 2011), The Débutante and Other Stories: Selected Short Stories

Leonora Carrington has become one of our favourite transatlantic literary women. She was a genuine adventurer, who seemed to have spent her life eschewing titles, however glamorous – rich English débutante or Surrealist Muse -, to dedicate herself to her artistic career. After growing up in England and escaping to France in her twenties, she moved to Mexico during the Second World War to become an influential artist and a member of the Women’s Liberation Movement of Mexico. This edition of her short stories includes translations from French and Spanish, as well as some stories originally published in English. The titular story portrays a young woman’s attempt to escape her bal by sending a hyena in her place. Perhaps one of Carrington’s best known pieces (along with her novel, The Hearing Trumpet), it is featured among such surreal, oneiric masterpieces as ‘The Oval Lady’, a tragic tale of coming of age and family cruelty, ‘The Sisters’, a strange take on the myth of the woman-vampire, and ‘Jemima and the Wolf’, a stubborn child’s love story with a man who conceals his real animal identity.

3) Silvina Ocampo (1914 – 1999), Thus Were their Faces: Selected Short Stories (ed. 2015)

Silvina Ocampo was the co-editor of the Antología de la literatura fantástica (1940 – translated as The Book of Fantasy), alongside Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares. Talent certainly ran in the family – Silvina Ocampo’s sister, Victoria Ocampo, was also a writer and became the founder of the famous publication Sur. At a time of intense intellectual exchange between Argentina and France, Silvina Ocampo travelled to Paris, and worked with artists such as Giorgio de Chirico and Fernand Léger. Her stories have been recently re-edited and anthologized, and are definitely worth a read. And if you are curious, but not quite convinced yet, you can even read one of the texts included in the collection here.

4) Jumpa Lahiri (1967 – ), In Other Words (In Altre Parole) (2016, trans. Ann Goldstein)

Born in London of Indian parents, raised in America, Jumpa Lahiri gives us the opportunity to talk about a country we have only rarely mentioned since the beginning of the project – Italy. After a Pulitzer prize for Interpreter of Maladies (2000) and publishing, among other works, The Namesake (2003), which was adapted into a movie, Lahiri decided to start writing in Italian, a language she had been drawn to for years. Her memoir, In Other Words, is the fruit of her experimentation with the language. You can also read this essay written for the New Yorker, in which she describes the delight and vertigo of speaking and writing in another tongue.

5) Una M. Marson (1905 – 1965), Pocomania and London Calling (ed. 2017)

The works of Jamaican poet and dramatist Una M. Marson were recommended to us by one of our attendees. A radical intellectual, political activist, and influential artist, whose writing paints her experience of racism in vivid words, She created Cosmopolitan, a publication to promote the work of stenographers, and championed black and African aesthetics, affirming the beauty of darks skins and unstraightened hair, a long time before such debates had surfaced fully in the feminist movement. Among countless other achievements, Una Marson was also the first black woman to work as a producer for the BBC, creating Calling the West Indies, a programme dedicated to Caribbean writers. You can listen to a radio programme dedicated to her work here. During her life, Una M. Marson published poetry collections (Tropic Reveries, 1930, Heights and Depths, 1931) and plays, two of which are included in this new edition!

6) Denise Levertov, Collected Poems (ed. 2013)

Denise Levertov perfectly encapsulates the experience of displacement linked with living at the crossroads of different cultures: ‘Among Jews a Goy, among Gentiles … a Jew or at least a half-Jew … among Anglo-Saxons a Celt; in Wales a Londoner … among schoolchildren a strange exception whom they did not know whether to envy or mistrust.’ Born in England, Denise Levertov was to become a renowned poet and peace advocate in the United States, who travelled to Mexico and Vietnam. In the words of critic Drew Calvert, talking about her poetry of the 1960s: “She imagined stabbing Henry Kissinger, throwing napalm in Nixon’s face. She channeled Neruda’s call for people to “come and see the blood in the streets.”” Such fantasies, however, coexisted with Levertov’s spiritual preoccupations – an apparent contrast reflected in her recently published Collected Poems.

7) Louise Erdrich (1954 – ), The Master Butchers Singing Club (2003)

In The Master Butchers Singing Club, Native American writer Louise Erdrich portrays the lives of German migrants settled in America, and the comings and goings between the two continents from the First to the Second World War. Erdrich’s novels frequently portray Native American communities in the United States, and the Transatlantic dimension of her work may not appear immediately. This novel, however, deals with Erdrich’s own European roots and heritage – with the cover of the original edition showing a picture of the author’s own grandfather.


8) Zora Neale Hurston (1891 – 1960), Barraccoon (ed. 2018)

We end this list on what is now a TLW household name – as our next book club (which will take place on January 16th, at 5.15pm, in the Gilchrist Postgraduate Club at the University of Glasgow) will be all about her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. However if you have not heard of this one yet, fear not, as it will only be published later this year. Barraccoon recounts Zora Neale Hurston’s interviews with Cudjo Lewis who, by the time of their meeting, was the last man alive to be able to tell his experience of the Transatlantic slave trade.

What neglected text by a transatlantic woman writer would you like to see here? Keep an eye on the blog for more suggestions from our team in the next few weeks, and remember:

  1. You have until the end of February to send your posts on a neglected transatlantic woman writer to
  2. The next TLW Book Chat, #ForgottenTLW, where we’ll talk specifically about those texts, will be on Wednesday 28 February at 7pm on Twitter.
  3. If you’re in Glasgow, join us on Tuesday 16 January at 5.15pm in the Gilchrist Postgraduate Club for our first book club, where we’ll be discussing Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Warmest wishes,

The TLW Team.



A Trenches Postscript and Still to Come…

Many thanks to everyone who turned out for our day in the trenches on Saturday! We were delighted to see you all at the talks, tours and workshops – and the sunshine! Huge thanks again to our speakers, Dr Hannah Tweed, Dr Alice Kelly, Anna Girling and to Dr Olivia Lelong with the amazing Digging In project. And on behalf of the whole Transatlantic Literary Women crew, we want to say a special, resounding transatlantic thank you to Marine, the TLW lead on Saturday’s event. Bravo Marine! Fantastic job!

We have three more events in the 2016-17 season of Transatlantic Literary Women and we hope you’ll join us:

There’s our final book club on Wednesday 26th April at 5.15 in 203, 4 University Gardens where the book under discussion is Anita Loos’ Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Come and discuss the adventures of Miss Lorelei Lee in a relaxed, informal, fun reading group over a glass of wine and snacks.

We’re very much looking forward to 23 May, when Dr Rachael Alexander (University of Strathclyde) will give a talk on Transatlantic Magazine Cultures (Tuesday 23 May in room 202, 4 University Gardens.) We hope you’ll join us for Rachael’s talk (refreshments available from 5; talk starts at 5.15). We’ve had a sneak preview of some of the magazine cover images Rachael will be showing from Vanity Fair and Vogue – they’re stunning! More information on the page of the event!

And, as our summer finale, we’re excited to be teaming up with the fabulous Glasgow Women’s Library for a day symposium on Saturday 3 June, with talks on Jazz Age women and advertising, Sylvia Plath, African American activists in Europe, Black Feminism across the Atlantic, a choice of workshops, and the chance to vote for your transatlantic literary woman. All this – AND a free lunch! What’s not to love? Take a look at the day’s line-up here, and find out more about the event and how to book here!

As ever, all events are free, open to all, and everyone is welcome. Please join us!

All best- Laura

February Book Club: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah, 4th Estate Edition cover

We look forward to seeing you on Monday for our book club, where we’ll be discussing Adichie’s 2013 novel Americanah. Whether you’re a veteran of our launch, book club, and modernisms workshop, or if February’s book club will be the first time you’ve come to one of the events in the Transatlantic Literary Women Series, you’re very welcome! Look forward to seeing you there.

We’ll be meeting at 5.15 on Monday in the same venue as January’s book club – in room 203, on the first floor of 4 University Gardens. I know some of you will be coming straight from work (me too, after seminars on Zelda Fitzgerald and Alice James – incidentally, two other unheralded transatlantic literary women!), so we’ll provide refreshments and rustle up a few snacks. As always, we want the tone to be relaxed, informal, friendly – and fun.

The janitors do their rounds and lock the outside doors shortly after 5.15, so if you’re a bit late, don’t worry: ring the bell and we’ll come and let you in. We’ll also come down to the front door regularly in the first half hour to make sure no-one’s been left stranded.

You may have seen that votes have been cast for our third book club meeting on Monday 20 March and that the winner was Nella Larsen’s novel Passing. We’ve ordered copies from the campus bookstore. If they arrive by Monday, we’ll bring them with us to the book club to circulate (and bonus: the edition has BOTH of Larsen’s fabulous Harlem Renaissance novels – Passing and Quicksand.) If not, we’ll let everyone know when and how they can collect the free copies from the book shop. Either way, we’ll leave a few copies with the book shop for anyone unable to attend Monday’s club.

If you are unable to join us, or would like to share your impressions on Americanah, feel free to do so on the page of the event, on Twitter, or just contact us at We’d love to hear from you!

Look forward to seeing you soon. Happy reading!

All best- Laura

Ps: Today is the last day to send your submissions for our transatlantic student writing showcase! Please send submissions of no more than 1,500 words of prose or 3 poems (maximum reading time 5-7 minutes) to:, with Transatlantic Literary Women Series as the subject title. Please also include a brief bio.


Competition News

Thank you very much to everyone who entered our writing competition, linked to our first book club choice, Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country (1913), narrating the exploits of a certain Undine Spragg. We really enjoyed reading your entries, which – in true transatlantic literary women style—were received from both sides of the Atlantic.

James Tissot, The Political Lady (1883 – 1885)

We asked you to write a dating profile for Undine Spragg or create one of Mrs Heeny’s newspaper clippings, writing a journalistic report on one of Undine’s parties.

There was no shortage of ideas, but we do have a winner. Congratulations to Deborah Molloy from Kent, who gives us a contemporary twist on a dating profile as Undine opts for the direct, targeted approach. Forget about being the Ambassador’s Wife!

Here’s Deborah’s winning entry. Enjoy!

I Mean To Have The Best

Dear Mr President

I am taking the unusual step of placing this personal ad as I realise that a terrifically busy man like you might not have time for niceties. I am currently between husbands, and really feel we were made for each other.  I really, truly admire the way you always get what you want, power is the biggliest thrill, don’t you think?  My daddy was a Wall Street man and I feel we speak the same language – alternative facts are the way forward.  I have always felt I belonged on Fifth Avenue; why we’re practically neighbours!  So, if you decide you want a First Lady who’s the home-made article my mamma will be happy to receive you at the Stentorian Hotel, 1 W 72nd St. Perhaps we can talk about lifting restrictions on pigeon-blood rubies.

With warmest regards,

Ms Undine Spragg-Marvell-de Chelles-Moffatt.

Many thanks to Deborah! We will be in touch with you about your customized prize. For all those interested in attending our next book club, we will be discussing Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah. You can pick up a copy at our Transatlantic Modernisms Workshop on Wednesday 8th February, or just email us at to ask how to get your free book! More information can be found on the page of the event here.

See you all on Wednesday!


PS: Feeling inspired? You can still submit your entries for our Student Creative Writing showcase until February 14th! Send your submissions of no more than 1,500 words of prose or 3 poems (maximum reading time 5-7 minutes) to:, with Transatlantic Literary Women Series as the subject title.

February Book Club: Decision Time

We’re looking forward to seeing you for our first book club meeting on Monday 30 January at 5.15 in room 203, 4 University Gardens to discuss Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country (1913). Please come and share your thoughts in a friendly, sociable group—and share a glass of wine or soft drink and nibbles. As always, everyone is welcome!

With such large numbers at our launch, we have booked an extra room in 4 University Gardens, so that we can have two groups if necessary and we will of course all join together at the beginning and the end for chat and refreshments. We’re looking forward to seeing you!

The TLW team chose the first text to kick things off, but future selections are all yours! So, now we need YOU to tell us which book we will all be reading for our second book club meeting, scheduled for Monday 20 February. Make sure your voice is heard! Thank you for the great feedback on the launch and the terrific book club suggestions for future meetings. We have taken three suggestions from the feedback forms for the shortlist for the Feb. book club. We will carry all suggestions forward, so if yours isn’t on the shortlist this time, it may well be on subsequent lists – and do please keep your suggestions coming via Twitter, Facebook or email.

Below are some information on February’s shortlist. How will this work? Louisa will be setting up Twitter and Facebook polls. If you’re not on Twitter you can email us instead: If you’re on none of those, then I am deeply envious and please just let us know in person.

So that we can make arrangements and order free copies of the book selected, we need you to cast your vote by Friday 27 January. We look forward to reading and discussing the book with the most votes!

Choice One: Nella Larsen, Quicksand

A writer of the Harlem Renaissance, Nella Larsen published just two novels, and a handful of short stories. Quicksand, written in 1928, is her first novel, introducing us to Helga Crane, a mixed race woman caught between fulfilling her desires and gaining respectability. Critically acclaimed, Larsen’s work speaks powerfully of the contradictions and restrictions experienced by black women. She has been described as a trailblazer in writing about the conflicts of sexuality, race and the secret suffering of women in the early twentieth century. Alice Walker calls Larsen’s work “Absolutely absorbing, fascinating and indispensable”:

“Somewhere, within her, in a deep recess, crouched discontent. She began to lose confidence in the fullness of her life, the glow began to fade from her conception of it. As the days multiplied, her need of something, something vaguely familiar, but which she could not put a name to and hold for definite examination, became almost intolerable. She went through moments of overwhelming anguish. She felt shut in, trapped.” Quicksand

Nella Larsen (1891 – 1963)

Choice Two: Zelda Fitzgerald, Save Me the Waltz

Zelda Fitzgerald? Just the mad wife of the famous author of The Great Gatsby right? Wrong. A writer and painter in her own right, Zelda Fitzgerald published a single novel, Save Me the Waltz. When Scott Fitzgerald read a draft, he was incandescent, accusing his wife of plagiarising material from the novel on which he was working, Tender is the Night. Save Me the Waltz was extensively rewritten and published in 1932 to lukewarm reviews. Subsequently described as “one of the great literary curios of the twentieth century” and almost always read biographically as a portrait of the Fitzgeralds’ marriage, Save Me the Waltz is set in the United States and Europe and tells the story of Southern girl Alabama Beggs, her marriage to painter David Knight and her struggle to achieve her own artistic success:

“Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.”

“But I warn you, I am only really myself when I’m somebody else whom I have endowed with these wonderful qualities from my imagination.”

Choice Three: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah

Americanah (2013) is the award winning best seller by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who lived on both sides of the Atlantic: in Nigeria and the USA. The novel traces the story of Ifemelu, a young woman who moves from military occupied Lagos to the USA to study at University. The novel deals with contemporary politics, including 9/11, but it is also a ‘timeless’ (Wiki) love story. According to the Guardian, ‘Some novels tell a great story and others make you change the way you look at the world. Americanah does both.’

Here’s a quote from the book to give you a flavour of this particular offering: ‘her relationship with him was like being content in a house but always sitting by the window and looking out’. Americanah also offers a useful tip for reading groups!

‘If you don’t understand, ask questions. If you’re uncomfortable about asking questions, say you are uncomfortable about asking questions and then ask anyway. It’s easy to tell when a question is coming from a good place. Then listen some more. Sometimes people just want to feel heard. Here’s to possibilities of friendship and connection and understanding.’

If you’ve already picked your favorite, you can cast your vote via Twitter, on our Facebook page, or just send us an email!


Transatlantic Catch-Up

Hello all!

I hope you’ve all had a good Christmas break, and have now made it back to university, or work, or whatever it is that keeps you busy these days. If you have been following the Transatlantic team on social media lately, you will have noticed that we have been quite busy ourselves, so here’s a short summary of what we have been up to, and of what you can expect from us.

The latest – and best-looking – addition to our project has come from lovely Katie Falco, who has been working with us to design our new logo and posters. We are really proud of the result, and Katie’s evocative work will set the visual trend for the rest of the series. If you have been walking around Glasgow, or at the University, you may have seen some of our posters popping up here and there…


The second great news is that, well, we are getting started at last! We are now counting the days to our launch, and we are looking forward to welcoming you, and to imagining the future of this series with you. Remember we will be giving some free copies of Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country! We have been thinking about different ways we could talk about women writers, the transatlantic relationship, and mobility, starting with a free afternoon of talks on Modernism on February 8th, and an all-day symposium at the Glasgow Women’s Library in June. This gives us plenty of time to explore possibilities for the series, so we would really love it if you could think about ideas you would like us to tackle, or even ways you would like to get involved. It could be by coming up with a theme or writer you’d really like us to put on our book club selection!

Finally, we are now expecting you to get writing too! We currently have two writing opportunities open: an Edith Wharton competition, and a collaborative creative writing showcase with the Scottish Writers Centre. We are already receiving some really great texts, and the winning submissions will be published here. Our showcase, which will be on February 28th, will also be a great opportunity to perform / read your work to an audience.


I hope that I’ve said enough to make you curious! If you have time, or ideas, or both, please drop us a line at @atlantlitwomen or at We’d be particularly keen on knowing your thoughts for books and authors you’d like us to celebrate together.

At this point all I have left to say is that I look forward to seeing how the series will unfold in the next few months, and that I hope to meet you next Monday at 5.15 in Room 203, 10 University Gardens, University of Glasgow.

See you soon!



Virginia Woolf Imagines America (and Insults Edith Wharton)

Plenty of transatlantic women writers including Edith Wharton visited, lived in, and wrote about both Europe and the US. One famous writer, however, published work on America despite having never crossed the pond. In 1938 an American magazine, Hearst’s International, asked Virginia Woolf: ‘What interests you most in this cosmopolitan world of today?’ She replied with her article ‘America, Which I Have Never Seen’. To read it in full check out The Dublin Review. Woolf’s article gives me the perfect excuse to write about my favourite author.

So how do you write about a place you’ve never visited? Apparently you ‘Sit on a rock in Cornwall’ and let Imagination (‘not an altogether accurate reporter’), ‘fly to America and tell you’ all about it. Woolf claims that ‘America is the most interesting thing in the world today.’ Given the recent US elections, some might agree with this sentiment, though for reasons altogether different from Woolf’s.

Virginia Woolf, 1927, Harvard Theater Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University

In her article, Imagination flies across the Atlantic, passing fishing boats, steamers and a cruise ship, until she finally sees ‘the Statue of Liberty. Liberty introducing America!’ In New York ‘everything shines bright’, the city ‘is made of immensely high towers, each pierced with a million holes.’ Here, ‘The old English words kick up their heels and frisk. A new language is coming to birth –’

Woolf interrupts Imagination, she wants to know more about how people live. Imagination replies, ‘The houses stand open to the road. No walls divide them; there are no gardens in front and no gardens behind.’ Imagination sees a building which in England ‘would be the King’s palace. But here are no sentries; the doors stand open to all.’ Perhaps things were different when Woolf wrote this article in 1938, or perhaps she was being naïve. I doubt it, given that she wrote her pacifist manifesto Three Guineas that same year. She certainly wasn’t ignorant of exclusionary politics and rejected nationalist boundaries, claiming that ‘As a woman I have no country, as a woman I want no country, as a woman my country is the whole world’ (Three Guineas, p. 234). Woolf uses Imagination to remind her readers of the values the nation is built on, and what life could be like, what the alternatives could be. In her article she says that ‘America has room for all ages, for all civilizations’ and from ‘this extraordinary combination and collaboration of all cultures, of all civilizations will spring the future –’ And here we are, in what was then the future.

Well. That was 1938. Back then, Woolf asked Imagination to ‘tell us about the Americans in the present – the men and women. What are they like now, the inhabitants of this extraordinary land?’ That question is just as pertinent now as it was then. The answer is complex, and we have an exciting series ahead of us to help navigate our understanding, not just of Americans, but of Europeans, and the transatlantic relations that shape our cultures. There are new boundaries, yes. But there are also new connections. Woolf says that, while the British ‘have shadows that stalk behind us’, Americans ‘have a light that dances in front of them. That is what makes them the most interesting people in the world – they face the future, not the past.’ Bringing transatlantic women writers together we can look at both the past and future, and reassess the shadows and light of the present.

At the close of Woolf’s article, she says ‘we must remember, Imagination, with all her merits, is not always strictly accurate.’ The accuracy or inaccuracy of Woolf’s Imagination probably had a lot to do with the books she read by or about Americans. After all, she’d never visited the USA. So what does Woolf think of American writers, specifically American women writers? Our answers might be found in Woolf’s article ‘American Fiction’. In it, she praises Willa Cather and a few other women writers who I’ll admit, I’ve never heard of, including a Miss Canfield and Miss Hurst. Woolf claims that ‘Women writers have to meet many of the same problems that beset Americans’, as they stumble, ‘eager to shape an art of their own.’ They have some of the same opportunities too, as each is ‘the worker in fresh clay’. She waxes lyrical about Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman: ‘the real American undisguised’.

Woolf is not so generous when it comes to Edith Wharton, who we’ll be discussing at our first reading group. Woolf claims that Edith Wharton and those like her are ‘not Americans; they do not give us anything that we have not got already.’ She accuses Wharton of having an ‘obsession with surface distinctions’ and of ‘exaggerating the English culture, the traditional English good manners, and stressing too heavily or in the wrong places those social differences which, though the first to strike the foreigner, are by no means the most profound.’

Is Edith Wharton as shallow as the lead character of her novel Custom of the Country? We wouldn’t have selected it for our book club if we thought so, but the best way to find out is to read the novel and discuss it with us. Whether you side with Woolf of Wharton, or neither, there’ll be plenty to talk about. We’ll be holding our first book club session on January 30th but in the meantime, give our Edith Wharton competition a go, and make sure you keep an eye out for the series launch on January 16th too. See you soon!

Saskia McCracken

Virginia Woolf. ‘American Fiction’. The Complete Works of Virginia Woolf. Hastings: Delphi Classics, 2014.

—, ‘America, Which I Have Never Seen’. Ed. Andrew McNeillie. The Dublin Review. Issue no. 5 (winter 2001-2) © The Dublin Review 2016. Available online at:

—, A Room of One’s Own and Three Guineas. Ed. Morag Shiach. Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 1998.