15 Essential Novels Of The #MeToo Movement
For anyone who has been the victim of sexual assault or harassment, I've picked out 15 #MeToo movement novels that add to the broader conversations being had in the news, in the courts, and in day-to-day conversations.
This article contains references to sexual assault and harassment, as do its outbound links, which may be triggering for some readers.
Although the media attention #MeToo gets focuses largely on high-profile rapists, the movement has also given a platform to people who have been the victims of sexual assault and harassment — crimes which are often erroneously considered to be less severe than rape. The #MeToo movement made me feel less alone, because it gave me the perspective I needed to contextualize particular moments — in which I was the victim of stalking and unwanted touching — as acts of violence, and to realize that it was OK to feel confusion and muddled emotions about what happened to me.
#MeToo has taught us that, while gender-based violence may be nearly ubiquitous, it comes in many unique forms. Likewise, each of the 15 #MeToo movement novels on the list below tackles the issues surrounding toxic masculinity — which include abusive relationships, coercive rape, and incest, among other issues — in different ways. Our experiences aren't the same, but that doesn't mean we can't learn from, and take comfort in, one another's stories.
'Queenie' by Candice Carty-Williams
In what is perhaps the funniest novel on this list, a 25-year-old Jamaican-British journalist finds herself single again after her longterm relationship with her white boyfriend goes in the bin. The breakup sets off a string of bad decisions from the eponymous heroine, who realizes for the first time just how toxic her old relationship was, as she explores her identity and puts herself out there once more.
'Women Talking' by Miriam Toews
Based on a true story, Women Talking centers on a group of Mennonite women who meet, in private, to discuss the truth behind the sexual assaults that happen nightly in their community — assaults which their husbands say are the work of demons.
'Those Who Knew' by Idra Novey
After a senator's aide turns up dead, a former student activist recalls her own relationship with the politician, which ended long ago, in violence.
'The Testaments' by Margaret Atwood
Set 15 years after the events of The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood's long-awaited sequel to the 1985 novel follows three narrators — a girl raised in Gilead, another girl raised in Canada, and the cruel and calculating Aunt Lydia — each of whom has a connection to Offred, the woman atop Gilead's most-wanted list.
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'Before She Sleeps' by Bina Shah
In the Panah, the secret haven beneath the nation's capital, women live in hiding from government laws requiring them to take multiple husbands, undergo fertility treatments, and devote their lives to becoming mothers. When one of the women conceives a life-threatening pregnancy, seemingly immaculately, the dark history of the Panah, and of Green City above, comes to light.
'The Nowhere Girls' by Amy Reed
Grace's family has been forced to relocate following a head injury that turned her conservative preacher mom into a fiery liberal. Their new house was once home to Lucy Moynihan, whose family was also forced to leave town, in the wake of rape accusations Lucy made against popular high-school boys. Angered by what happened to Lucy, Grace and two other students form an underground network of resistance to fight back against their school's rape culture.
'Saints and Misfits' by S.K. Ali
A creative hijabi teen takes center stage in this YA novel. Janna doesn't fit the stereotype that her non-Muslim classmates have of her, nor does she gel completely with her traditional, Arab Indian-American family. Janna isn't interested in what people think... until a video attempt to shame her for talking to a non-Muslim boy goes viral.
'Milkman' by Anna Burns
In this Booker Prize-winning novel set during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, an 18-year-old known only as "middle sister" endures rumors of her involvement with her stalker, a political dissident, who winds up dead.
'Trust Exercise' by Susan Choi
A high school romance is not as it seems in this novel from Pulitzer-winner Susan Choi. David and Sarah were dating, and then they weren't. When Sarah later begins seeing a visiting theater student, readers learn that everything they thought they knew about her relationship with David may have been a lie.
'Girl in Pieces' by Kathleen Glasgow
Things haven't gone well in 17-year-old Charlie Davis' short life. Her father is dead, her mother kicked her out, and she's been on the street or in treatment ever since. After pursuing a relationship that only she wanted, Charlie falls in with an older lover, who doesn't have her best interests at heart.
'Rani Patel in Full Effect' by Sonia Patel
A high schooler who has endured years of sexual abuse at the hands of her father finds her voice in this stunning YA novel from Jaya and Rasa author Sonia Patel. After she uncovers her father's affair, Rani starts dating Mark, an older man who has become a regular presence in her parents' business.
'Whisper Network' by Chandler Baker
When their boss is up for promotion to CEO, four women — Sloane, Ardie, Grace, and Rosalita — realize that they must speak out about the rumors that have swirled around him for so long.
'The Friend' by Sigrid Nunez
When her mentor dies, the unnamed protagonist of Sigrid Nunez's National Book Award-winning novel inherits his Great Dane, Apollo, whom she attempts to hide in her dog-free apartment. Apollo's presence allows her to reflect upon the relationship she had with his previous owner, a man who coerced students, including the novel's heroine, into sexual relationships.
'His Favorites' by Kate Walbert
In this novel from National Book Award finalist Kate Walbert, a woman named Jo looks back on the events of her youth, which began when her best friend died in a tragic accident for which Jo was at fault. Sent to a boarding school in the aftermath, 15-year-old Jo became the object of her young teacher's affections.
'Red Clocks' by Leni Zumas
Set in a post-Personhood Amendment U.S., Leni Zumas' Red Clocks weaves its way between five women living in a small fishing town in Oregon, who must each deal with the ramifications of pregnancy in post-Roe America.