The Grimké Sisters DNGAF at a time when NGAF could ruin a woman’s life in no shortage of ways. I’d already set these women on my shelf of revered feminists after reading “The Invention of Wings,” a fictionalized account of their lives as abolitionists and feminists by Sue Monk Kidd. A new theme about their story emerged for me, however, in their short (non-fictionalized) entry in “What Every American Should Know About Women’s History.” It turns out that one of the biggest audacities of their audacious lives was lecturing to same-sex audiences on abolitionism.
I’m changing my name back. I know. After all the the serious thought, hemming and hawing I put into the decision to become Natalie Burg Vial, I picked the wrong choice. I was just wrong. I tried it on, and it didn’t fit.
I have been annoyed at every piece of mail that has come addressed to Natalie Vial. I roll my eyes at the people in my doctor’s office who look up my file and say, “Oh, Natalie Burg Vial?” Which is insane, because the only reason they have me filed that way is because I told them that was my name. But it feels wrong. It feels like a lie. It’s not romantic or sweet. Every time I hear myself referred too by the (actually rather cool) last name of my (wonderful and loving) husband, I feel the crushing weight of thousands of years of patriarchy grind on my bones.
CONFESSION: I do not read as much as I should.
It’s a shameful thing, for a number of reasons. First, it’s an incontrovertible fact that writers must always be reading. It’s part of the deal. You can’t grow your craft without any outside influence. No one’s brain can improve upon itself. You have to feed it.
I recently became the last person on the planet to read Sue Monk Kidd’s Secret Life of Bees, and fell in love with it in a way I haven’t fallen in love with a book in a long time. It was like discovering The Great Gatsby again for the first time, or To Kill a Mocking Bird, or A Prayer for Owen Meany. It became one of my favorite books, even before I’d read the last page.
As a writer, these experiences of falling in love with a book are particularly overwhelming. Not only is there excitement, infatuation and enjoyment, but also aspiration. I want to write like this. I want to make readers feel this way.