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AUTHOR: Miranda K. Pennington
DATE: 2017
PAGES: 320

A Girl Walks Into a Book: What the Brontës Taught Me about Life, Love, and Women’s Work

by Miranda K. Pennington

How many times have you heard readers argue about which is better, Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights? The works of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne continue to provoke passionate fandom over a century after their deaths. Brontë enthusiasts, as well as those of us who never made it further than those oft-cited classics, will devour Miranda Pennington’s delightful literary memoir.

Pennington, today a writer and teacher in New York, was a precocious reader. Her father gave her Jane Eyre at the age of 10, sparking what would become a lifelong devotion and multiple re-readings. She began to delve into the work and lives of the Brontës, finding that the sisters were at times her lifeline, her sounding board, even her closest friends. In this charming, offbeat memoir, Pennington traces the development of the Brontës as women, as sisters, and as writers, as she recounts her own struggles to fit in as a bookish, introverted, bisexual woman. In the Brontes and their characters, Pennington finally finds the heroines she needs, and she becomes obsessed with their wisdom, courage, and fearlessness. Her obsession makes for an entirely absorbing and unique read.


Miranda Pennington identifies as bisexual, and discusses her process of understanding her sexuality in this memoir. Rare instance of the publisher’s blurb making reference to an author’s bisexuality.

  • Epigraph
  • List of Illustrations
  • A Note on Textual References
  • Walking into the Brontës
  • The Family
  • Jane
  • A Wish for Wings
  • Making the Rounds
  • Wearying Heights
  • Agnes Grey
  • Shirley and Caroline
  • Helen Graham and Branwell Brontë
  • Wandering the Moors
  • M. Paul Emanuel
  • Arthur
  • Haworth
  • Acknowledgments
  • Bibliography
  • Notes

“At least I was able to realize, amidst my tribulations, that there was another explanation for always feeling different. Sometimes I wanted to swoon in the face of a swearing, swaggering dynamo; sometimes I wanted to stomp around with a snarl and romance the governess. I had overwhelming feelings for distant young men and engaging young women. A friend who came out as bisexual in middle school went through such an ordeal of teasing and humiliation that I decided to keep my realization to myself. Although I was attending a fairly progressive high school, “that’s so gay” and worse slurs were still thrown around on a regular basis. I finally felt like I had faded into the background after the bullying gauntlet of middle school; I didn’t need to revisit the experience.
Besides, I knew how to flirt with boys. I’d been practicing on my male classmates for years. It passed the time. But I’d never knowingly flirted with girls. I didn’t have a script. I was intimidated by long hair and cosmetics prowess and cute sundresses. I assumed nobody was going to be attracted to me anyway. And forget about breaking it to my family—I thought they’d never understand. Though nobody is likely to be astonished when an androgynous bowl-cut-having child who turns into a basketball-jersey-wearing, dress-despising teenager then comes out as bisexual, I stayed in the closet until my twenties, pining for both Jane and Rochester without letting anybody be the wiser.”
— from A Girl Walks Into a Book: What the Brontës Taught Me about Life, Love, and Women’s Work by Miranda K. Pennington

“When I went out with Lauren, who was as awkward as I was, we both brought our dogs as buffers. I dated terrible kissers and compulsive phone checkers. Lesbians who sneered at my bisexuality and straight men who thought being queer was a party trick. I hid parts of myself altogether, feigning enthusiasm for whatever my date was into, no matter how esoteric. I was tailoring myself in hopes they would like me, and as a result I was neither genuinely happy nor genuinely appreciated. I wasn’t ready to allow myself to be known.”
— from A Girl Walks Into a Book: What the Brontës Taught Me about Life, Love, and Women’s Work by Miranda K. Pennington

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