Thursday, May 12, 2011

Joanna Russ

I was sad to learn -- somewhat after the fact -- that renowned science-fiction author and critic Joanna Russ died at the end of April. She was a wonderful and vastly important writer, and it's a huge loss to the field and to her many friends.

I've taught various of Joanna's work over the years, and it never fails to inspire heated class discussion and unusually good work from students. In fact, two of the best papers I've ever read were responses to her novel The Female Man. My somewhat conservative Nevada students, even or especially the women, argued passionately with the book, but it resulted in some terrific writing. (We get a lot of "I'm not a feminist" disclaimers around here from young women who don't quite realize that they owe their voting rights and access to higher education, among other things, to the very hard work of many of their foremothers.)

That was many years ago. I should teach the book again, since I'm constantly looking for ways to slice through student apathy and disengagement. Anything that inspires discussion is a blessing.

I never met Joanna personally, but I absolutely treasure a note she sent me praising my story "Ever After." I was incredibly moved that anything I wrote had meant so much to someone I so admired.

Rest in peace, Joanna. You'll be missed.


  1. Anonymous9:30 AM

    I still think about "How to Suppress Women's Writing" - first out in 1983, over a quarter of a century old now, and I've still never read anything better on the roadblocks that stand between women and the recognition of their writing. Thank you, Joanna Russ, for creating so many vivid other worlds and for writing so well about this one too.


  2. Yeah, I love that book too -- and it applies to writing from any minority or counter-cultural or marginalized group, really.


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