In February 2017, Women’s National Book Association released 100 Fiction Books by American Women and 100 Nonfiction Books by American Women. The fiction list features brilliant works that fall in the genres of fiction, poetry, and memoir. The nonfiction list, excluding memoirs, features the true accounts and achievements of American women. Each week, we’ll feature books from the lists.
Last Wednesday was the beginning of Lent, the season of 40 days leading to the Christian celebration of Easter Sunday. While retailers, greeting card companies and television ads mark the occasion with bunny rabbits, chocolate candy, and dyed eggs, devout Christians celebrate with prayer, fasting and giving up meat and certain luxuries. In honor of the beginning of the Easter season, we continue our coverage of the 100 Books Lists with books pertaining to the Christian experience.
Catholic Church and History
The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels was received to critical acclaim after it was published in 1979. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism and the National Book Award for Religion/Inspiration. In the text, Pagels, well-respected in the theological community, questions the true origins of Christian faith and wonders what Christianity would have been like had the 52 discovered Gnostic texts, or “secret Gospels” been included in the Bible. The Nag Hammadi texts were accidentally discovered in Egypt in 1945 and revealed radically different teachings of Jesus Christ. Pogels asserts that because of a political struggle for the leadership of Christianity between the Catholic church and the Gnostics, each side chose specific texts and interpretations to further their agendas. Prior to the discovery of the Gnostic texts, Catholics dictated the ways of Christianity through the New Testament, ignoring all other gospels.
Catholic Church and Memoir
Though Memories of a Catholic Girlhood is at its core a memoir, it’s the fictionalized account of Mary McCarthy’s early childhood told in a series of eight stories. The title is also a bit of a misnomer because the author and her three siblings bounced around practicing several religions after the deaths of their parents during the 1918 flu epidemic. First, McCarthy was under the guardianship of her Catholic aunt and cruel uncle who constantly beat her to save her soul. Then she was placed with her Protestant grandfather and his Jewish wife, who wore a veil to hide the results of a botched face-lift. Before a stint at an Episcopalian boarding school, Meyers spent time at a Catholic convent. While the extenuating circumstances of McCarthy’s childhood alone make for an interesting read, she could not resist adding fiction “for the sake of a good story.” Her vivid imagination also led to the publication of over two dozen novels.
Click here to check out a few books from the 100 Books List written by Black women in honor of Black History Month, and here for books related to Women’s History Month. For the full list of 100 Fiction Books by American Women, click here, and the full list of 100 Nonfiction Books by American Women is here.