Feminists and books go together. Whether feminists are writing books or reading them or both, the literary world has long been a place for women to tell their stories, in both fiction and nonfiction. It's been a place for women to do so on their own terms, not through male intermediaries. And in today's literary landscape, that is more true than ever.There's no better way to get educated, get angry, get inspired, and get impassioned than by cracking open a book. Each of the novels, memoirs, and essay collections will draw you in with quality writing and even more compelling stories. These are books that give time to the stories, lives, and truths of women. Each is worth a read, and then worth buying for all your friends to read, too.
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Alice Walker is a powerhouse of a writer, and her 1982 Pulitzer-winning novel is a classic for a reason. Set in Georgia in the 1930s, the book deals with a lot of heavy issues — poverty, sexual abuse, domestic violence, and institutionalized racism, to name a few — and its story is sure to stay with readers long after the final page, along with Walker's strong voice, and her messages about black womanhood. A violent and explicit insight into the issues facing African-American women in the US, this book is a surprisingly uplifting and comforting reminder that strength can be found even in the most tragic conditions.
Canadian author Margaret Atwood's famous dystopian novel is set in a distant nightmarish future under the rule of a totalitarian Christian theocracy which has overthrown the United States government where women are completely subordinate to men. The biggest take away from the novel is usually its points about reproductive freedom, but it's also about how women exercise agency and deal with adversity, even under heavy restrictions. As unpleasant as it is brilliant, this cruel and bone-chilling story will stay with your for the rest of your life - not just because it’s terrifying, but because it’s terrifyingly possible.
It's unfortunately rare for a male authors to do a truly good job writing women, so it's my opinion that the exceptions should be encouraged. And Khaled Hosseini's Thousand Splendid Suns is definitely one of the exceptions. The novel follows the lives of two women in Afghanistan, and provides a glimpse into the lives of women in periods of monumental change and under one of the most oppressive government regimes in modern history.
In this novel, Adichie examines how ideas about race, gender, and nationality play out in America, England, and her native Nigeria. When our protagonist Ifemelu leaves Nigeria to go to college in America, leaving behind her family and her boyfriend, she had no idea what she would find. In the years that follow, she navigates racial and gender politics in her new home, trying to find her place and her identity while never able to forget the lover she left behind. And if that's not enough to convince you, Adichie herself is a pretty awesome feminist.
Maya Angelou's memoir is a masterpiece. In it she describes everything from growing up poor in the rural South to sexual abuse to a teen pregnancy and yet the novel is ultimately, somehow, uplifting and moving. As a young black girl from an impoverished background, Angelou was born with a host of disadvantages that shaped and defined her but never stopped her. Her strength and her unforgettable voice make this a book that no person should miss out on. Rest in Power, Maya Angelou.
Published in 1899, The Awakening was groundbreaking and way ahead of its time. In Kate Chopin’s novel about Edna Pontellier, a New Orleans wife and mother in the late 1800s, who begins questioning her narrowly defined role in life after experiencing attraction to another man. Her existential awakening drives the stories and scandalized 19th century readers, and is an early feminist novel that modern feminists shouldn't miss. In this landmark novel of early feminism, Edna is unmoored from her domestic attachments following a torrid affair with a young man. By the time the novel ends, Edna has progressed from traditional wife to self-actualised and sexually liberated woman. The book makes you question whether it’s better to sleep peacefully or awaken to an impossible reality.
Britain’s funniest feminist’s memoir helps women who are ‘too knackered and confused’ to work out if they are a women’s rights advocate (i.e the vast majority of us) to easily figure it all out. Less of a glossy manifesto on women’s rights and more of an honest attempt to decode what it means to be female, this book is a great read for anyone who’s intimidated or confused by the shifting parameters that define feminism.
Here's the essential collection of Black lesbian and feminist poet, Audre Lorde. There's no issue too large for Lorde to tackle in her sharp, incisive, unflinching prose. The collection's 15 electric essays explore the insidious forces at work behind everyday life: racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, and class. She offers some actionable ways to move forward.
he conceit is simple: Woolf explores the history of women’s role in creating literature. However, the implications of women’s place in society is must broader. In a well-known segment of the book, Woolf famously imagines Shakespeare’s sister Judith, who was turned away from her own literary dreams to pursue a more conventional path. Woolf wittily and charmingly leads you through her arguments, until, all of a sudden, you find yourself at some profound climax.
No feminist should go without reading French existentialist Simone de Beauvoir's ground breaking study of women. Perhaps the most extensive and enduring feminist book, The Second Sex is at once a work of anthropology and sociology, of biology and psychoanalysis - a book that will make you question the worth of the woman in 2016 just as much as it did upon its release in 1949.
Doris Lessing's iconic 1962 novel, an unintentional "feminist Bible," involves four notebooks kept by the protagonist Anna Wulf, who uses each notbook for a different purpose. The narrative that emerges from the various notebooks examines war, communism, and the early women's liberation movements. Plus the early reviews called Lessing a "man-hater," so you know it's worth a read.
Louise Erdrich's most recent in an impressive string of novels, The Round House is a coming of age novel about a teenage boy on a Native American reservation whose mother is raped. The novel explores sexual violence — a particularly common problem on reservations — and the way it arises, the way it affects families and communities, and the way the world often fails the women who experience it, Native women especially. It's a powerhouse of a novel that I think is a must read for anyone.
In these witty and intelligent essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of the evolution of modern woman - from the writer’s own experience with growing up to the wider popular culture influences that subtly define what it means to be a woman in today’s society. Bad Feminist should sit on every informed reader’s bookshelf - a sharp, biting and hilarious look at the ways in which our consumption shapes the person who we are.
Everyone knows that some of the best books out there right now are actually young adult novels, so if you're looking for a novel that deals with serious issues affecting young people, look no further than Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, a story about a teenage girl who was sexually assaulted and who feels like there isn't anyone she can reach out to for help. It's a powerful novel about finding your voice, one that will affect readers of all ages.
Ever had something ‘mansplained’ to you? Then you’ll want to know about this book. Rebecca Solnit's essay 'Men Explain Things to Me' is credited with kickstarting the term - radically addressing the issues that a patriarchal culture may not deem as ‘issues’ at all. Exploring everything from rape culture to the nuclear family, Solnit’s prose reminds us of the basic right we all should have to a voice and an opinion.
Toni Morrison is without question one of the most powerful female voices in contemporary American fiction — or just one of the most powerful voices in general — and her novel Paradise focuses on a small community of women living just outside the all-black town of Ruby, Oklahoma. The novel, as one would expect from Morrison, is masterful, and its focus on the struggles and solidarity of women makes it perfect for feminists searching for a new book.
The American dream suburb of Stepford, Connecticut, has perfect houses, perfect lives, and perfect wives. This satirical thriller concerns Joanna Eberhart, a photographer and young mother who begins to suspect that the frighteningly submissive housewives in her new idyllic neighborhood may be robots created by their husbands. At once a psychological nightmare and a terrifying commentary on a media-driven society that values the pursuit of youth and beauty at all costs, The Stepford Wives will make you rethink the societal pressure to settle down, get a husband and ‘have it all’.
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