Happy International Women’s Day! In honor of today, I thought I’d share with you some great books written by women, all with a feminist theme. Feminism is a pretty nebulous term, so I’m by no means saying that these books entirely encompass it. In fact, they probably barely scratch the surface. There are a few here that I’ve read and highly recommend, and a few that are on my radar and I hope to get to soon. So let’s get into it!
Just as a warning, some of the books featured mention rape and sexual assault.
THE HANDMAID’S TALE BY MARGARET ATWOOD
Now, I know you could probably make a drinking game out of how often this book has been recommended of late, but I do think it bears repeating. Not only is Atwood one of few women in the line up of classic dystopian novels, her book has never stopped being relevant. Which, frankly, is what makes it as disturbing as it is. The Handmaid’s Tale deals with the control of women’s bodies, specifically the absolute control men have over women’s reproductive rights. The book primarily builds this dystopian world in a remarkably subtle and unsettling way. If you haven’t gotten around to this one yet, I highly, highly recommend it.
ASKING FOR IT BY LOUISE O’NEILL
I came close to recommending O’Neill’s first novel, Only Ever Yours, but it does have a lot of similarities with The Handmaid’s Tale (though, to me, Only Ever Yours deals with controls about women’s appearance and their desirability to men, rather than reproduction. It’s one of my favourites and I’d still recommend it). O’Neill’s second novel deals with rape culture, and is one of the most harrowing books I’ve ever read. Primarily it examines modern society’s perception about rape and rape victims. The protagonist, Emma, is not the ‘perfect victim’ and her ordeal is incredibly difficult to read. I wrote a full review of this book way back when I started this blog if you’d like to read more of my thoughts.
BAD FEMINIST BY ROXANE GAY
This is a non-fiction collection of essays on many different topics, but is primarily focused on feminism and race. This was the first essay collection I’d ever read, and the first piece of non-fiction feminism I’d ever read. Feminism, and by extension, feminists, is often held to an impossibly high standard. Roxane Gay’s essay collection says that it’s totally fine to be a bit of a messy feminist; you don’t have to toe every line, in fact, it’s probably impossible. Her writing is fantastic, and this collection is very accessible and an excellent starting point if you’re wanting to get into feminist non-fiction.
STAY WITH ME BY AYOBAMI ADEBAYO
This is a recent release, and is the author’s first novel. So far, this is possibly my favourite book I’ve read this year. Set in Nigeria in the 1980s, it follows a couple and the pressures they face to have a child. It deals with the expectations that both men and women face in regard to ‘perfect’ masculinity and femininity. It’s beautifully written. I got an advanced copy of this book, and I should have a full review up on Friday!
EVERYDAY SEXISM BY LAURA BATES
Now onto the books I haven’t read! Everyday Sexism, as I’m sure a lot of you know, began as a Twitter account where women shared stories of the day-to-day sexism they faced. Bates collated this into a book in 2014, and this book covers everything form wolf-whistling to sexual assault. It covers the experience of many different women of many different ages. I’m really keen to read this, as I’ve been following the Twitter account for some time now!
THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL BY ANNE BRONTE
This one might seem like a bit of an outlier, given that it was written long before every other book on this list. This is a book I’ve owned for a while, but hadn’t read. Anne is the most neglected of the Bronte sisters, but a recent Vintage podcast reminded me how much I want to read this. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall follows a woman as she escapes her alcoholic abusive husband. Which, in it’s 19th Century context, was practically unheard of, so it’s easy to see why it’s frequently regarded as a proto-feminist work.
REDEFINING REALNESS BY JANET MOCK
One of the things I’m conscious of in regard to my own feminism is being aware of, and learning more about experiences that differ from my own. To that end, I’d really like to read more from transgender writers, both of fiction and non-fiction. Redefining Realness comes highly recommended, and seems like a good place to start.
SISTER OUTSIDER BY AUDRE LORDE
Similarly, I’m also conscious of how easy it is to only consume works by white authors, particularly because I’m white myself. Though I’ve called myself a feminist for years, reading feminist non-fiction is still new to me (beyond reading Judith Butler and Simone de Beavouir and the like at university). I only recently became aware of the work of Audre Lorde, and of this book in particular, but I’m really hoping to pick it up in the near future.