What I'm Reading

Finding “A Room of One’s Own”

woolf one'sroomA book a million times read, a hundred times borrowed from the Flushing public library bears witness to a longing deep inside to make beautiful music, not just with the voice or the strings, but with words. Filled with minuscule translations of phrases in Chinese, scrawled phone numbers to call, and underlined sentences, one book captures the feelings and personalities of all who held it in their hands. The students’ notes in the book margins of what resonated with them demonstrate why Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own is so powerful. Woolf’s words speak across generations to women (and men), crying out for the injustices women a century ago faced. In ages past Jane Austen wrote not in a studio but in a public parlor, and Woolf’s hypothetical Shakespeare’s sister never published a play. Writing was not a respectable career for girls.

How far society has come now! When women outnumber men at many major universities, hold key leadership positions and write unashamed, the world is much different than the one Woolf lived in. The dominance of women in many fields is now even overwhelming and overextends to roles we were not designed for. But still Woolf’s words ring in us, because even if we have our own rooms and money, something about the very nature of women holds us back from achieving that depth of intellect or social perception that we desire.

Our minds cannot focus. Woolf calls for a private room and money to achieve this effect. She amazingly can think so deeply about one issue and explore every nook and crany of it. But for most of us the moment someone takes special notice of us, the moment we assume household responsibilities, or the moment we try to instagram our life and worry about all the details of social decorum, from clothes to guest lists, we are distracted. Many women can overcome these hindrances quite well, but they still exist as something to defeat. We all yearn for that room, that independence from household responsibility, that pure focus on what is only ourself and our own. The readers who analyzed that worn copy of Virginia Woolf’s classic wanted it. Reading the book, I wanted it. She who liked my Chinese twitter status on the book wanted it, the sense of freedom.

The myriads of notes, languages and phone numbers tumbled into that small book testifies to the hectic lives of the readers. For why must we fall head over heels at a few words of flattery, or despair at no words at all? Why must we forever try to remember what others close to you need, when they can adequately care for themselves? We are made to love and be loved, but emotions seem to take too high a role in women’s brains. And so we can’t focus, can’t concentrate, and always feel a step behind. No matter what society and age we live in, we cry for the truth of Virginia Woolf’s book, because that is the endless call of the ages.

@怡伦Yilun: 你可能觉得世界很好,还是很不公平. 读完这本书你就会感谢今天有这么多的好女作者, 表示社会在仅仅百年之内有多么大的变化. 但是老问题还存在,你必须为自己找个安静的地方, 想办法赚钱, 独立齐来. 这生命是你的, 没人可以拿走!

You might think this world is very good, or is fair, but after reading this book you will be grateful for the many female writers today. They demonstrate the great change in society in just one hundred years. But the old problems remain: you must find your own private place and find a way to make money. This life is yours; no one can take it from you!


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