There are many ways to celebrate and support women, whether it's telling those close to you exactly what makes them so great, boosting the efforts of your inspirational women colleagues, or putting coins in the purses of women whose work you admire. But one way of showing your appreciation for amazing women that has the added benefit of allowing you to directly absorb their wit and wisdom is purchasing and reading their books. To mark International Women's Day 2019, I asked eight experts on the subject from around the country to recommend their
favourite feminist books.
From gripping fantasy adventures and groundbreaking graphic novels to essential feminist criticism and influential essay collections, these reads will keep you entertained, informed, and inspired all the way through to International Women's Day 2020. Read on for contributions from Dardishi, a Glasgow-based
zine and arts festival celebrating the work of Arab and North African womxn, Emalee Beddoes-Davis, the curator of Women Power Protest at Birmingham Museum, Melissa Cummings-Quarry from London's Black Girls Book Club, and so many more besides. If you need me, you'll find me reading in a fortress made from feminist books.
'Their Eyes Were Watching God' by Zora Neale Hurston
"Being exposed to Hurston and reading 'Their Eyes Were Watching God' for the very first time felt like a feminist awakening — Hurston allowed me to access feminism in a way that was relatable — speaking in a language that as a black woman, I instinctively understood. The main character of Janie Crawford was one of the first moments in literature where I truly felt seen — witnessing Janie transform from a voiceless young girl and evolve into a powerful woman allowed me to feel liberated and to see beyond the limiting expectations placed on me as a young Black woman attempting to navigate the constraints of day to day life."
— Melissa Cummings-Quarry from Black Girls Book Club.
'The Creation Of Patriarchy' by Gerda Lerner
"First published in 1986,
The Creation of Patriarchy remains little known, even among feminists. This underrated work comes from a woman who did some of the most extensive research into women's history and was responsible for introducing it into academia as a discipline — a perfect starting point for your Women's History Month reading." — The Feminist Library, a collection of Women's Liberation Movement literature based in London.
'Life After Life' by Kate Atkinson
Life After Life is a potent reminder of what women’s lives were like in the first half of the 20th century. The novel follows the many lives of its protagonist Ursula Todd from her birth in 1910 through multiple different iterations, showing how even the smallest things change her fate. Although the novel focuses on one woman from a privileged background, it exposes how even small changes in circumstance may affect how we view the world and how the world views us, revealing wider truths about the impact of war, class, health, violence and abuse." — Emalee Beddoes-Davis, curator of Modern & Contemporary Art at Birmingham Museums Trust and curator of Women Power Protest, an Arts Council Collection National Partners exhibition at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, which is on until March 31, 2019.
Milkman by Anna Burns is an exceptional novel about everyday life in Northern Ireland during the years of ethno-national conflict violence called The Troubles, but it also reflects the every day violence inflicted on women in their daily lives. It is an astounding novel, and though many readers have complained it's difficult, I found the internal voice of the narrator smart, funny, and reflective of a young women determined to try and keep her own independence and selfhood intact when so many people in her community believe she should be and act differently. It is a revelation." — A. N. Devers, writer and owner of The Second Shelf, a bookstore dedicated to rare books, modern first editions, manuscripts, and rediscovered works by women.
'Calling Dr. Laura' by Nicole Georges
"This is one of my favourite books of all time. The narrative of the memoire, which chronicles Georges' early 20s, circles back and forth in time around a singular event that changed her life. Georges' hand-drawn black and white illustrative style is heavily informed by DIY and zine culture, a culture and community that she has been involved in since her teens. This book means the world to me as a zine-maker myself, and as someone who identifies closely with Georges a queer Arab woman. When I walked into Gay's The Word, a historic queer bookshop in London, I didn't expect to come across the first book I had ever seen authored by an out queer Arab woman. I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone I meet in person and IRL - so again - go read it pals!"
— Samar Ziadat from Dardishi, a Glasgow-based zine and arts festival that showcases Arab and North African womxn’s contributions to contemporary art and culture.
'Children of Blood & Bone' by Tomi Adeyemi
"This is purely because we've never come across a fantasy novel quite like it before. The novel weaves together dark magic, West African mythology, and Yoruba language. It's so gripping that I finished the book in less than two days and have been recommending it to everyone I know ever since. The sequel has been pre-ordered and we're keenly waiting until we can be whisked back to the kingdom of Orïsha."
— Paula Akpan from Black Girl Festival, the UK's first festival celebrating Black British women and girls.
'The Secret Lives Of Baba Segi's Wives' by Lola Shoneyin
"Anything I say about this book won't do justice to Shoneyin's truly incredible writing [or] her ability to capture the idiosyncrasies of the different characters' speech in the various chapters in which they narrate their own story. Shoneyin brings these people to life. At times funny, other times heart-breaking,
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives talks about motherhood, conflict, partnership, and the challenges of a polygamous marriage." — Sofia Hericson from Hodder Books, who spent a year reading only books written by women of colour.
'Feminists Don't Wear Pink & Other Lies curated by Scarlett Curtis
"One of our favourite books of 2018 was curated by journalist and activist Scarlett Curtis. This book is a collection of essays by 52 incredibly inspiring women including Jodie Whittaker, the first female Doctor Who; Deborah Frances-White from
The Guilty Feminist podcast, and YouTube sensation Zoe Sugg (aka Zoella) just to name a few. We would recommend this book to anyone, whatever their gender, age, background, ethnicity, sexual orientation. There is something for everyone in this book." — Team InnovateHer, a Liverpool-based organisation working to decrease the gender imbalance in tech. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.