Reading Women

By Sarah Ladipo Manyika

There is a library at Hedgebrook, bursting with books–skinny ones, tall ones, fat ones, and colourful ones. Some of these books have just arrived, while others have lived on the shelves for years and now carry the sweet scent of wood-burning fires. What makes this library truly unique though, is that all the books are written by women who once stayed at Hedgebrook. And this is why, on my first day at Hedgebrook, I stood in awe in front of the oak beamed shelves, alternately tiptoeing then crouching while running a finger along the rows of solid spines.

I started with some short stories by Ursula Le Guin, and a novel by Sarah Waters, both writers I had heard of but never previously read. And then, because I come from Africa and Europe, I searched specifically for writers whose lives, like mine, straddle continents, and I found a slim little book, a play in fact, co-written by Danai Gurira and Nikkole Salter. In the three weeks that followed, I established an afternoon routine that always began with finding a patch of sunlight in which to sit.  I would then read for hours.   Read more