The Unoriginal Writer’s Daughter

As a new blogger, mostly, what I’m worried about is picking the right subject. What is a female blogger to write about? Other media have rules for us womens, and I’m kind of lost without them. If I were setting … Continued

As a new blogger, mostly, what I’m worried about is picking the right subject. What is a female blogger to write about? Other media have rules for us womens, and I’m kind of lost without them.

If I were setting out to write a screenplay, for example, it would be incumbent upon me, as a female screenwriter, to write about out-of-wedlock pregnancy. The dialogue should be spry and witty, the characters quirky but attractive, the themes superficial. Write what you know, right?

Likewise, if I were a poet, I’d write about depression/oppression and die young, preferably by suicide.

I’m all about selling out and playing into stereotypes, but the one “female writer regulation” by which I cannot abide is the rule coercing vaginal novelists to entitle their books The Such and Such’s Wife or The Such and Such’s Daughter. For whatever reason, this particular commonplace really gets my goat… to vomit copiously on the carpet.

Think about it. In recent years we’ve had The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger; soon to be a film starring The Hulk), The Senator’s Wife (Sue Miller), Pandora’s Daughter (Iris Johansen), and the wonderfully plural Rashi’s Daughters series (Maggie Anton). Literary luminaries such as Amy Tan and Joyce Carol Oates are not immune to the curse (see The Bonesetter’s Daughter and The Gravedigger’s Daughter, respectively), nor are writers of bestselling Oprah books (see The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve). We’ve got a paranormal thriller (Pandora’s Daughter by Iris Johansen), a costume romance-cum-mystery (Wizard’s Daughter, Catherine Coulter), a Holocaust drama (The Zookeeper’s Wife, Diane Ackerman), and a Jamaican coming-of-age story (Margaret Cezair-Thompson’s The Pirate’s Daughter, yaarr). In 2005, a genius by the name of Ms. Wanda E. Brunstetter had the brilliant idea of writing a trilogy called The Daughters of Lancaster County, which includes The Shopkeeper’s Daughter, The Quilter’s Daughter, and The Bishop’s Daughter. That’s a whole lotta cooters right there.

Hollywood, of course, is not inured to the blight of the daughter/wife designation, as evidenced in such classics as The Preacher’s Wife (a remake of The Bishop’s Wife), The Coal Miner’s Daughter, and My Date with the President’s Daughter. Now, just to piss me off even more, Lifetime’s been touting a new made-for-bawling film based on the bestselling novel, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. Rumor has it that J.K. Rowling was going to call the first Harry Potter book The Blast-Ended Skrewt’s Wife until she changed her name to the more masculine J.K.* and avoided the curse.

No. Enough. Enough enough enough. On behalf of all women everywhere, I say no means no.

How would you like it, men? How would you like it if your classic books were forced to be branded with such inane titles in order to—supposedly—appeal to a demographic bearing a certain type of gonad? Let’s see how you like it, Shakespeare, when an editor exchanges King Lear for The Old Senile Coot’s Daughters. Ibsen, you cool with re-dubbing Hedda Gabler The Boring Scandinavian Guy’s Wife? Great! And Paul Thomas Anderson, our test audiences think There Will Be Blood is too interesting a title, so we’re changing it to, uh… The Oil Tycoon’s… um… Okay, actually there weren’t any women in that movie**, so you get off easy. This time.

On second thought, I should probably be happy that I, as a woman, have a niche. I know that regardless of how frivolous or mawkish my writing is, I’ll have a place in the Women’s Fiction section of the bookstore if I use one of the abovementioned shibboleths. I should be happy that I get to write books that have such titles. It’s like how Asians get to write about kung fu, or how Jews have comedy and the Holocaust sewn up, or how African-Americans get to make Soul Plane.***

Boobily yours,

The Middle-Aged Lawyer’s Daughter

*John Kougar Rowling

** Apparently Upton Sinclair’s Oil! was another treatise on “meat packing.”

***Made by a Jew.

2 Comments on “The Unoriginal Writer’s Daughter”

  1. Stokes #

    It’s only a matter of time before this goes recursive, and we start getting titles like “The Plowman’s Wife’s Daughter” or (in Massachusetts only) “The Red Sox Fan’s Daughter’s Wife”


  2. Jimmy #

    I read “My Stroke of Insight” in one sitting – I couldn’t put it down. I laughed. I cried. It was a fantastic book (I heard it’s a NYTimes Bestseller and I can see why!), but I also think it will be the start of a new, transformative Movement! No one wants to have a stroke as Jill Bolte Taylor did, but her experience can teach us all how to live better lives. Her speech was one of the most incredibly moving, stimulating, wonderful videos I’ve ever seen. Her Oprah Soul Series interviews were fascinating. They should make a movie of her life so everyone sees it. This is the Real Deal and gives me hope for humanity.


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