Back Kate Bolick: “Feminism is common sense,” and other truths from Little Women

What is it that makes a “timeless” piece of literature so appealing to readers decade after decade, century after century?

In the following video, taped at a September 12 event at New York City’s Strand Bookstore, acclaimed writers Kate Bolick and Carmen Maria Machado share their thoughts on the enduring appeal of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel Little Women—especially for young readers.


Watch: Kate Bolick and Carmen Maria Machado (3:57)

“We tend to think of the mid-1800s as being very, very far away,” observes Bolick, whose 2015 memoir, Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own, was a New York Times best seller. And yet, “the stuff that people were dealing with then is exactly what we’re dealing with now.” Alcott’s feminist sensibility, she suggests, is “common sense.” (Note: At one point Bolick says “1936” when she means “1836.”)

For Machado, who has been a finalist for the National Book Award and the Nebula Award, Little Women “is fresh in a lot of ways and it feels very real and it is actually very funny.”

The event celebrated the 150th anniversary of Little Women, which Library of America has commemorated with March Sisters: On Life, Death, and Little Women. The book is a collection of reflective essays by contemporary women authors on personal lessons learned from the four sisters in Alcott’s novel. In addition to essays by Bolick and Machado, it features contributions from National Magazine Award nominee Jenny Zhang and Pulitzer Prize winner Jane Smiley. Click here to watch Bolick and Machado’s complete Strand talk.

Further demonstrating Little Women’s undiminished popularity, a high-profile new film adaptation is scheduled for release this December 25th.

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