Claiming a Corner of Woolf’s “Room of One’s Own”

by Cassandra Lane

“The thesis of A Room of One’s Own—women must have money and privacy in order to write with genius—is inevitably connected to questions of class,” Mary Gordon wrote in a 1981 forward to the book that comprises Virginia Woolf’s famous extended essay.

I read the book in early 2001, highlighting Woolf’s self-assured sentences in bright orange ink and writing in the margins with fervent scrawls. As an African-American woman who grew up poor yet still believed I had stories to tell, a voice that needed to be shared, and who desired, more than anything, to tell stories with brilliance, I certainly took issue with parts of Woolf’s argument. Whereas she insisted that one write calmly and without bringing attention to the self, my heart raged against social injustice; I wrote in first person. I was not wealthy or emotionally detached enough to be the kind of writer she described.  Continue reading