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The Writer Of Her Time Speaks To A New Generation

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Emmanuel chapter.

It’s hard to create a mental image of California in the 60’s without evoking the name of Joan Didion. With famous depictions of the Golden State, Didion helped to frame the 60’s and 70’s through her narrative storytelling. She was able to take her characters of everyday people and place them in line with national political issues of the decade, including civil riots, war, and abortion. While Didion was certainly revered among her peers, her works are starting to connect with a new generation of artists, thinkers, and, of course, writers. Didion’s prose about struggle and starting over has found a crowd of readers in this generation, because the issues that she wrote about are still here, still waiting to be unraveled.

Born in 1934 in Sacramento, California, Didion has always used her home state as inspiration. In her essay collections, Slouching Towards Bethlehem and Play it as it Lays, the imagery of desolate deserts and dreamers looking for a fresh start spoke to the time period that she wrote in. The 1960’s and 70’s were a period of turmoil in the United States; war, civil movements, and the assassinations that took place during this time have shaped the way America functions as a social society today. In that way Didion’s own words have shaped our world, and inspired countless artists, writers, and people in general. After the author’s death in December of 2021 there was an outpouring of grief for the beloved literary icon. Notably singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers expressed her grief and appreciation for the writer in an article for Vanity Fair.  Rogers describes how Didion guided her through California with her words, and how her storytelling inspired how she creates her own art. She wrote that, “The artists who turn us into artists are like family.”

Didion’s voice and stories reflected the artists and landscape of her generation. The fact that her words have impact and meaning decades after they were written shows her genius, and her understanding that writing lives and evolves beyond the author’s intentions. That is perhaps the legacy that any artist hopes for: to continue to live, to inspire, to make change through their art.

Megan Seaver

Emmanuel '24

Hi my Name is Meg I'm a freshmen at Emmanuel College. Some things I'm interested in writing about are feminist issues, politics, and current issues around the world.