We’re delighted to present the introduction to the first and most extraordinary book ever published by The Rumpus.
We called it “The November Problem.” On August 1, 2010, The Rumpus Book Club editorial team searched for its November selection—a December book that would be mailed to members a month ahead of its publication date. We wanted the author to be a woman, for equitable purposes.
We asked publishers and editors, consulted publishing house catalogues and online booksellers, reviewed books in translation, considered republishing books that had gone out of print, and wondered if there was enough time to write our own books. There wasn’t. We came to accept that literary books, particularly those by women, are hardest to come by during the market-driven holiday season.
We considered some compromises, spoke foul of an industry that places profit above talent, and then noticed something. We’d been searching for an edgy, honest, and literary book—the kind of writing that women contribute to TheRumpus.net week after week. What we sought was what we published daily. We could publish our own book, a compilation of women’s writing.
The catch was that our collection of almost all original personal essays would have to be prepared and ready to sing by August 21. Three weeks. Our deadline was our only constriction; our contributors were free to write what they wanted and keep it to any word count they liked. The authors—their words, confessions, and timeliness—would shape the book.
What emerged is the book you hold in your hands: a rich cross-section of women’s lives that cuts across culture, age, occupation, orientation, and literary style. The essays are as diverse in form as the authors themselves—and their stories speak to each other, contradict each other, and inform each other. The authors are wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters. They are loved and unloved. They are gay, straight, and everything in between. They keep horses and sleep on benches. They are self-destructive and caretaking. They are religious and quietly converting. They have breast cancer and ovarian cysts. They are sex workers, sex scholars, teenage virgins, mothers-to-be or not-to-be. They are fighters, runners, and interns. They are writers.
Rumpus Women is not a collection of perfect women, but real women, whose experiences, tragedies, and reflections inspire us. We are grateful to the many women who stepped up to be a part of this collection. We are proud to call them our community.
Our plan was to do something fresh, to challenge convention and start a tradition. Volume 1 is just the beginning of this adventure. TheRumpus.net can now be known as the place that proved extraordinary writing by women is published every month of the year, beyond the algorithms and marketing machines, and especially in November.
Julie Greicius and Elissa Bassist
Rumpus Women, Vol I will be available exclusively to members of the Rumpus Book Club in November, and then available for sale in December through The Rumpus Store and select independent booksellers. We’re incredibly proud to announce, for the first time, the complete list of contributors (alphabetically):
Justine Hope Blau
Camille T. Dungy
Marie Myung-Ok Lee
Sarah Fran Wisby