Every Woman Has the Same Story
By Laurel Osterkamp
Okay, so you recently had a baby and you’re having trouble getting your groove back. Your kind husband (who is also your doctor) rents a summer house with this huge nursery, but the nursery isn’t for the baby; it’s for you. You’re to stay in the nursery, day in and day out, and because you need “rest” you’re not to read, write, workout, care for your baby, or do anything at all interesting. Your one diversion is to stare at the nursery’s ugly yellow wallpaper, until you begin to believe there’s a woman trapped behind it. And then, your purpose is to free that woman, but what you don’t realize is that you’re really trying to free yourself.
It could happen, right?
I’m of course referring to the famous short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Maybe you once read it in a high school lit class? In my latest novel, Just Like the Brontë Sisters, “The Yellow Wallpaper” is briefly mentioned, when one of my main characters, Jo Beth, is stir-crazy and paranoid during her pregnancy bed-rest. I also just had my high school AP Lit students read “The Yellow Wallpaper”, and write an essay on it. AND I just finished The Widow’s House, by Carol Goodman, who uses The Yellow Wallpaper as inspiration for her entire novel.
So, the story has been on my mind.
And here’s my conclusion: While the author, Charlotte Perkins-Gillman, never achieved brilliant-author-status like Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, or Daphne Du Maurier, she did accomplish something big. She created an “everywoman.” We hear about “everyman” in literature: that universal male character we can all relate to, because his struggle is our struggle. Well, I’m not the first to believe that a man’s struggle is different than a woman’s, and the reason Perkin’s-Gillman never gave her main character a name is because she is everywoman.
Now, I’m not saying we’re all destined for insanity, or to be locked in a poorly decorated room by our controlling husbands. But I do believe that every woman’s story has a shared element. We’re looking to free that person inside us, the one who is trapped by society’s constraints, people’s expectations, or our own poor choices. Every woman’s story, on some level, is about empowerment and finding our voice. Because, as women, we are expected to make other people happy first, before satisfying our own yearnings.
All my books have been about women and empowerment. None of my characters are victims, and only a few are insane. And I should add, there is a lot of great fiction out now, with kick-ass female protagonists, truly empowered gals we’re rooting for from page one. BUT, at the very least, those kick-ass protagonists must struggle to hold onto that empowerment.
It’s not their fault. And it’ the reason “The Yellow Wallpaper” is still referenced today. We’re all looking to find that woman inside us, and to keep her from creeping away.
About the Book
Title: Just Like The Bronte Sisters
Author: Laurel Osterkamp
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Sisters Skylar and Jo Beth adore skiing and they virtually share the same soul. After an accident, Jo Beth flees to Brazil, leaving Skylar behind in Colorado to obsessively read the Brontë sisters. While abroad, Jo Beth meets Mitch and her life takes some unexpected turns, until tragedy leads free-spirited Mitch right into Skylar’s empty arms. With their Heathcliff/Catherine romance in full swing, Skylar wants to trust Mitch, but did he harm her sister? Loving Mitch could make Skylar lose everything. Just Like the Brontë Sisters is an unconventional romantic page-turner inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel, full of magical realism, literary references, a ghost, and some healthy doses of suspense.
Laurel Osterkamp is a Kindle Scout/award-winning author of women’s fiction and suspense. Her “day job” is as at Columbia Heights High School, where she teaches creative writing, college writing, and AP Lit. She resides in Minneapolis with her husband, two chatty children, an overweight cat, a gecko, and a hissing cockroach (don’t ask). Her other loves include chocolate, jogging, and boots.