1st person bildungsroman-type novel or autobiography written by a woman
September 1, 2016 2:26 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone know of a 'bildungsroman' type novel (ie, life development from childhood through adulthood and beyond) written in the 1st person by a woman?. . . Something like Karl Ove Knausgård's "My Struggle" series of novels, but with a female protagonist and written by a woman?

Preferably somewhat contemporary and semi or wholly autobiographical– but I'm open to suggestions from any time period.

An autobiography or long diary that goes into a lot of detail about the writer's interior– feelings, thoughts, etc– and different callings, mindsets, and vicissitudes of life would be good too.

posted by cotesdurhone to Writing & Language (26 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
The Opoponax, by Monique Wittig comes to mind.
posted by Sara C. at 2:29 PM on September 1, 2016

Elena Ferrante's Neopolitan Novels should fit.
posted by ferret branca at 2:31 PM on September 1, 2016 [15 favorites]

Maya Angelou's "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings," and its following sequels.
posted by a good beginning at 2:38 PM on September 1, 2016 [7 favorites]

The photographer Sally Mann's autobiography, Hold Still, might do the trick—a lot of reflection on her vocation and her family, and her feelings about her relationship to the south and her ancestors.

And I would second Elena Ferrante.
posted by felix grundy at 2:44 PM on September 1, 2016

The Road from Coorain, by Jill Ker Conway.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:46 PM on September 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Older than you're thinking but very modern in outlook- Anais Nin's and Colette's works. Probably also some of the early authors in the feminist movement especially Simone de Beauvoir.
posted by hydrobatidae at 2:53 PM on September 1, 2016

Simone de Beauvoir wrote her autobiography in several volumes.

Nonfiction biography: The Pinecone, "The Story of Sarah Losh, Forgotten Romantic Heroine—Antiquarian, Architect, and Visionary," by Jenny Uglow. It's not in first person, but it is simply wonderful.

Nathalie Sarraute's "Enfance", doesn't go all the way through her adulthood, but is very powerful. She's one of my favorite contemporary authors (though technically is no longer contemporary; she passed away in 1999).

"Daughters Are Forever" by Lee Maracle, a Salish author.

Marguerite Duras' oeuvre is full of gripping stories.
posted by fraula at 2:57 PM on September 1, 2016

Patti Smith, Just Kids and The M Train (autobiography).
posted by praemunire at 3:29 PM on September 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë
posted by ewok_academy at 3:33 PM on September 1, 2016 [5 favorites]

An Angel at my Table. The Jane Campion movie is well worth seeing too.
posted by BibiRose at 3:56 PM on September 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

The Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro
posted by Dressed to Kill at 4:16 PM on September 1, 2016

Judith Kerr's wonderful When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit trilogy of novels based on her own life. The first is really a children's book but rewarding to read at any age, I think the later volumes are aimed at a slightly more adult audience.

It starts with her family fleeing pre-war Nazi Germany when she was a child, follows them to Paris and London, and her young adulthood in London, and then her return to Berlin to visit her sick mother later in life. I must reread them myself - such beautiful books.
posted by penguin pie at 4:36 PM on September 1, 2016

Sorry: Just noticed you were looking for first person novels and those are third person. But wonderful anyway, and include a lot of reflection on the main character's inner world.
posted by penguin pie at 4:38 PM on September 1, 2016

Alison Bechdel's autobiographical memoirs Fun Home and Are You My Mother? would probably fit the bill. Also I suspect much of Dykes to Watch Out For is semi-autobiographical, but is less bildungsroman-y.
posted by Athanassiel at 4:48 PM on September 1, 2016

I really liked scientist Hope Jahren's memoir Lab Girl.
posted by moonmilk at 6:13 PM on September 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Dorothy Richardson has a 13-novel series titled "Pilgrimage" based on 25 years of her own life. The great Neglected Books recently read and posted about them. The introductory post has links to the volumes available for free online.
posted by edeezy at 6:24 PM on September 1, 2016

I could have sworn "Pilgrimage" was first person but looking through the excerpts I guess not.
posted by edeezy at 6:28 PM on September 1, 2016

You could check out The Golden Notebook, by Doris Lessing, and—newer and shorter—How Should a Person Be, by Sheila Heti. The latter is extremely autobiographical.
posted by toomuchkatherine at 7:01 PM on September 1, 2016

Jeanette Winterson's first book, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, is a bildungsroman and semi-autobiographical with fantasy digressions.
posted by clavicle at 7:45 PM on September 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:16 PM on September 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Patricia McKillip's Stepping from the Shadows.
posted by clew at 11:29 PM on September 1, 2016

The Country Girls Trilogy by Edna O'Brien
posted by thetortoise at 12:14 AM on September 2, 2016

Cat's Eye, Margaret Atwood
posted by Gordafarin at 1:05 AM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

Beverly Cleary's memoir The Girl from Yamhill is not contemporary -- she grew up during the Great Depression -- but it is wonderful, and captures quite a bit of her interior life.
posted by yankeefog at 2:46 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Periodically I read a volume of The Diary of Anais Nin. It's one of my favorite series of books.
posted by OurOwnMrK at 6:01 AM on September 2, 2016

Sarah Grand's The Beth Book. It's set during the suffrage movement, but it's wonderful.
posted by incountrysleep at 3:54 PM on September 2, 2016

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