A Queer and Brown Reading of Virginia Woolf


A friend once chided me that for the amount of time I spend reading, it’s a shame that I didn’t know much about classics. So there I was, struggling with Virginia Woolf, trying hard to connect to the text.

And then I got to this portion:

A very queer, composite being thus emerges. Imaginatively she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history. She dominates the lives of kings and conquerors in fiction; in fact she was the slave of any boy whose parents forced a ring upon her finger. Some of the most inspired words, some of the most profound thoughts in literature fall from her lips, in real life she could hardly read, could scarcely spell, and was the property of her husband.

I was halfway through reading A Room of One’s Own, past details of elaborate lunches and other minutiae I didn’t bother remembering, when I felt like Woolf was actually onto something.

The “queer, composite being” she writes about is of the utmost interest to me, as a woman myself. And a queer one at that. While I agree with her thoughts on women, on their relegation as inferior to men, there’s a lot that’s still missing for me. This ain’t my feminist canon.

To be clear, what she points out as women’s inability to write (specifically fiction) stems from lack of money and space. Had women inherited lump sums of money from their ancestors (500 pounds to be exact), they would’ve been able to acquire a writing room all their own, with enough money to get by and sustain themselves.

I suddenly had flashbacks: of times when I wrote at a laundromat off of Alum Rock in San Jose while waiting for loads of laundry, of writing in anger inside a friend’s old car when I ran away from home, by the stairs of an old apartment in Brisbane that I unofficially shared with what seems like ten other people. Continue reading “A Queer and Brown Reading of Virginia Woolf”