Barbara Raskin, 63, who wrote fast and funny feminist novels about women in middle age and about the steamy political and social climate of Washington, died July 23 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore of complications after surgery for a vascular disease.
Mrs. Raskin's most successful book was "Hot Flashes," a 1987 bestseller that reviewers said belonged to a significant new genre in American fiction, the celebration of female friendship.
Published two decades after the American woman's movement began gathering steam and raising consciousness across the country, "Hot Flashes" was hailed as a landmark woman's novel, much as Mary McCarthy's "The Group" had defined the 1950s for women and Marilyn French's "The Women's Room" had defined the 1970s.
"Hot Flashes" follows three women who gather to mourn a writer friend who has died prematurely. Left behind is a journal that chronicles her despair when her husband left her for a younger woman and an unfinished autobiographical novel written for revenge that the friends salvage.
"Hot Flashes" was praised for having captured the feelings of a generation of well-educated, frustrated women who raised families while their husbands improved their careers.
Mrs. Raskin said in an interview that the "hot flash" metaphor, evoking a discomfort of menopause, had "served me well. It worked as a symbol, a trigger for hot flashbacks, and a metaphysical reawakening, as well." The book remained on the New York Times bestsellers list for four months.
In a 1987 profile in The Washington Post, writer Stephanie Mansfield said of Mrs. Raskin: "Breathy, breezy, slightly befuddled, Raskin has become the Colette of the Correctol set. She is brilliant, neurotic, insecure, self-deprecating--all the requisite personality traits for a successful, if late-blooming, female novelist. She is also compulsive, the kind of woman who would make 900 tacos in her un-air-conditioned kitchen in July for her daughter's wedding reception."
Mrs. Raskin's other books included "The National Anthem," an unflattering look at Washington during the Watergate investigations, "Loose Ends" and "Out of Order." She received a fiction award from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1982.
Mrs. Raskin was long active in freelance writers organizations that worked to protect and improve the lot of independent writers. In 1992, she was among a number of writers who organized a "Writers Rights Day" in New York, urging writers to band together to defend themselves.
She was founding chair of the National Writers Union and a founder and president of the Washington Independent Writers. She wrote articles and book reviews for The Washington Post, Washingtonian magazine, Washington Monthly, the Washington Star and New Republic.
Mrs. Raskin, a native of Minneapolis, sold her first short story when she was 12 to Seventeen magazine. She graduated from high school at 16 and the University of Minnesota two and a half years later.
After receiving a master's degree in English from the University of Chicago, she worked part time as a flight attendant for Delta Airlines.
She finished her first novel when she was 21 and married fellow student Marcus Raskin. They moved to Washington in 1958.
Marcus Raskin was later an assistant at the White House to Kennedy national security adviser McGeorge Bundy. Mrs. Raskin taught English at Georgetown, American and Catholic universities, studied toward a doctorate in literature at Catholic and was a Senate speechwriter.
Marcus Raskin left the White House and came out against the Vietnam War. The Raskins became known for their political activism, and their home was a meeting place for the civil rights and antiwar movements. Marcus Raskin was tried with Benjamin Spock in 1968 as a member of the "Boston Five" anti-war group. They were acquitted of anti-draft conspiracy charges.
She divorced Marcus Raskin in 1979. Her marriage to writer Anatole Shub also ended in divorce.
Survivors include three children from her first marriage, Erika Raskin Littlewood of Richmond, Jamin Ben Raskin of Takoma Park and Noah Annan Raskin of Washington; a brother; and seven grandchildren.