Agata Popęda here, joining the Pilgrim’s Way bookstore in Carmel in a celebration of local female writers during Women’s History Month. Women’s History month was established in 1988 after it snowballed from Women’s History Week, introduced on the federal level in 1980. The celebration came as a compromise between the need to participate in the global celebration of International Women’s Day falling on March 8, without following the exact format, largely recognized in the U.S. as a communist holiday. (Its origin is the March 8, 1917 strike in today’s Saint Petersburg, Russia, when female textile workers began a demonstration that eventually engulfed the whole city, demanding "bread and peace"—an end to World War I, to food shortages, and to czarism.)
The list of local writers that Pilgrim’s Way came up with impresses with its range—from local teenagers to bestselling writers. Their books are available at the shop on Dolores Street in Carmel, as well as in most other local bookstores.
Possibly the most intriguing on the list is Q Tavener, a Carmel Valley teen and the author of Oddball, a young adult fantasy highlighting the adventures of a young man who helps his village investigate a strange phenomenon by relying on the power of friendship, acceptance and magic. “My interest in writing/becoming an author started in 4th grade,” Tavener wrote on her website, “and since then I've written a few things just for myself. Oddball is my first ever ‘print and sell’ book.”
The talented 14-year-old is in the company of local powerhouse Jane Smiley, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for A Thousand Acres (1992) and another Carmel Valley resident. Smiley’s latest, A Dangerous Business is at once a Western, a thriller and a feminist tale of life in a Monterey bordello during the California Gold Rush. Two young prostitutes become uneasy when several women in their dangerous line of business disappear and neither the sheriff nor the local vigilantes seem to care. Risking further peril, they decide it's up to them to solve the mystery. The story is inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's The Murders in the Rue Morgue.
Pacific Grove-based Alka Joshi, also on the list, is publishing her third book in March. Joshi’s first book, The Henna Artist, immediately became a New York Times bestseller and a TV series is now in development. Look for the rest of this trilogy, including The Secret Keeper of Jaipur (2021) and The Perfumist of Paris, to be released March 28. The final chapter in Joshi's Jaipur trilogy takes readers to 1970s Paris, where Radha's budding career as a perfumer must compete with the demands of her family and the secrets of her past. A conversation with Joshi after the publication of the second volume can be found here.
Other female writers on the Pilgrim’s Way’s list include Big Sur-raised and San Francisco-based Meredith May and her sweet 2013 memoir The Honey Bus, a story of a little girl growing up with her grandfather, an eccentric Big Sur beekeeper. The Weekly’s piece on that memoir can be found here. May’s latest is Loving Edie: How a Dog Afraid of Everything Taught Me to be Brave. The list culminates with Carmel resident Wanda Straw and San Francisco native Sandy Miranda. Straw’s memoir, Sasha Noodle String Theory is a darkly funny memoir about the grieving process alongside a cat named Sasha. It is set against a backdrop of Carmel and Big Sur, where the author has lived and worked since 1987. Miranda’s book, Tuning In: A Memoir of Transformation Through the Magic of Radio, focuses on the life-changing power of music. Miranda’s engaging storytelling shares her journey as a wildly popular international public radio broadcaster.
International Women's Day will also be celebrated by the United Nations Association, Monterey Bay with a conversation between two local writers: Ava Homa and Francesca Maria. The event will take place at 6pm, Saturday, March 11, at the Marina Library, 190 Seaside Circle. Homa will discuss her book, Daughters of Smoke and Fire, a novel about young Kurdish women growing up in the oppressive Iran—in the context of recent protests against the regime in Iran. Maria will talk about a different type of horror, discussing her upcoming horror story collection They Hide: Short Stories To Tell In The Dark. The collection, which will be published April 7, is spurred by Maria’s “love of horror and all that go bump in the night.” Both Homa and Maria are Pacific Grove residents. (Homa will also speak in the Carmel Library Foundation on April 12 and on April 20 in the Pacific Grove Library.)
Have you read work by any of the writers on this list? If not, perhaps it can provide inspiration for a new book to pick up and enjoy. Happy reading.
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