7 Female Authors Who Defined My Childhood

In honor of International Women's Day, today I will be sharing with you seven female authors who played huge roles in my younger reading life. As a child of the early 90s living in a household where play was encouraged and watching television was limited to the occasional Disney movie or Animal Planet special, reading was my primary form of entertainment. 

Obviously, this is not an extensive list of all the female authors I read as a kid. I was an avid library goer and regularly maxed out the number of books I could borrow on my kid's card, which leads me to believe that I don't remember even half of the books I used to read. This is simply a selection of the authors I kept returning to again and again and who still invoke in me a strong sense of nostalgia.

1. Laura Ingalls Wilder (the Little House series)
The Little House series was probably the first series that I read all on my own. I remember being completely captivated by Wilder's descriptions of life in the big woods and on the prairie, mainly because she was describing it all through the eyes of a girl not so different in age than me. Looking back on it, I learned a lot about not only adventure and life on the frontier, but also about family, hard work, and death while reading the Little House books. Regardless of whether I was facing the same challenges in my living situation, I learned a lot about growing up by following young Laura.

2. Judy Blume (Blubber, Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret)
Reading Judy Blume was a game changer for me. After years of reading mainly children's fantasy and classics, the idea that someone had written about young girls in such a normal, relatable way blew my mind. This was the first time I read fiction that reflected my own reality back at me in a way that was both engaging and thought-provoking. I am probably not alone in believing that there are generations of now women who can attribute their first exposure to relationships and puberty to the novels of Judy Blume.

3. Cornelia Funke (The Thief Lord, Dragon Rider, The Inkworld Trilogy)
I couldn't tell you the exact number of times I have read The Thief Lord and the above picture doesn't do it justice, but if you look closely you can see my copy is well worn, the spine creased and the pages dogeared many times over. Even as a young reader I recognized that Funke's writing has a magical quality to it that allowed me to disappear into her fantastical worlds for hours at a time. Part of what I love about Funke's novels are the clear love for books and storytelling that radiate out from the pages.

4. Jude Watson (the Jedi Apprentice and Jedi Quest series)
This might seem like a weird one, but Jude Watson's Star Wars series were some of my favorite books as a younger reader. After discovering Star Wars in middle school, I was desperate to read anything and everything that I could get my hands on involving the fantastical universe and Watson's novels were like crack. I was and remain particularly fond of Watson's Jedi Apprentice series, which follows a young Obi-Wan Kenobi during his apprenticeship to Qui-Gon Jinn. I remain impressed with the multi-dimensional characters and complex plotlines Watson was able to craft and thoroughly blame her for my enduring status as an Obi-Wan fangirl. I return to Watson's books even today, especially when I feel a reading slump coming on or when I need a guaranteed pick me up.

5. J.K. Rowling (The Harry Potter series)
I couldn't leave the brilliant creator of Harry Potter off this list! When I first picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone at 11 years old,  little did I know I would spend the next five years obsessively reading and rereading the series until the release of its epic finale. Not only did Rowling create a magical world that continues to capture the hearts and minds of readers (young and old alike), but she also taught me a lot about friendship and fighting for what you believe in. And of course, I have to give a shout out to Hermione, the role model for all bookish and school-minded girls everywhere.

6. Diane Duane (The Young Wizards series)
Diane Duane's Young Wizards books were a series I turned to in the long waiting periods between each Harry Potter book. All I really wanted was magic and boy, did I get magic. More of an urban fantasy than Rowling's wizarding world, Duane created a complex magic system that pulled from our own world and myth that I found completely spellbinding, no pun intended. However, the themes of friendship and family at the heart of Duane's epic novels are what really drew me in and kept me reading.

7. Meg Cabot (The Princess Diaries series)
Much like Judy Blume's novels, The Princess Diaries was a bit of a different read for me and yet one that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was the first young adult novel that I ever read during a period in which the YA we know and love today was slowly coming into existence. I loved reading Mia's diary entries, her quirky and distinct tone quickly informing my own writing and giving me a glimpse into the mythical teenage mind just when I was becoming a teen myself. Unfortunately, my love for contemporary YA fiction seems to have both started and stopped with Meg Cabot's writing, most likely because there is nothing quite like reading just the right book at exactly the right time.

There you have it, the seven female authors who really defined my childhood and early reading. Were there any female writers who had a big impression on you as a young reader?

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