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60+ works of feminist-minded fiction - Women’s Words

Joanne Owen

By Joanne Owen on 10th August 2020

Our collection of feminist-minded fiction celebrates an extraordinary range of styles, genres, themes and stories from around the world, and across centuries. Though wildly diverse, the books share one overriding criteria – they centre women. In them we meet trailblazing heroines who tread their own paths. Wise women who walk on the wild side. Adventurers of the political and erotic kind. Wayward girls and wicked women, to borrow the title of one of Angela Carter’s works of non-fiction.

One of the earliest books included is Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper. First published in 1892, this feverish story explores women’s mental health and issues around creativity, self-expression and the restraints of marriage with power and prescience. Staying with American writers, Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar is another seminal novel on mental health - a dark (and often dryly comic) analysis of 1950s America based on the author’s experiences as a young woman.

Then there’s Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys’s sublimely crisp reimagining of Jane Eyre. Through making Bertha, the “madwoman in the attic”, her narrator, Rhys makes a powerful statement about agency, and who gets to have their story told. Though Rhys’s stylistic opposite, Angela Carter also explores agency through her riotously exuberant short stories and novels, particularly her deliciously playful fairy tale re-imaginings. Yet a different kind of agency (and playfulness) is explored by Anaïs Nin through erotically-charged short stories that centre female pleasure and desire.

Skipping to contemporary writers, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a tremendous force in fiction and feminist thought. Her novels ring with boldness and grace, while her We Should All Be Feminists essay makes a flawless, lucid argument for the continued - and urgent - necessity of feminism. A recent personal favourite is Nicole Dennis-Benn’s Patsy, a stirring novel that moves from Jamaica to America, traversing generations and cultures, exposing white privilege as it explores sexuality, motherhood and mother-daughter relationships.

We’ve also included several contemporary Young Adult novels with feminist themes, among them Mary’s Monster, an illustrated verse novel that explores the life and work of Mary Shelley, daughter of the mother of modern feminism, Mary Wollstonecraft. Another YA favourite is Watch Us Rise, a smart and awe-inspiring call-to-action page-turner set in a high school.

Read on to explore a Pandora’s box of an alternative kind - in this case, the box should be opened, for it’s filled with the words of some of the world’s finest writers.

Mom and Me and Mom

Mom and Me and Mom

Author: Maya Angelou Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/03/2014

Anyone who's read the classic, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, knows Maya Angelou was raised by her paternal grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. In Mom & Me & Mom, Angelou details what brought her mother to send her away and unearths the well of emotions Angelou experienced long afterward as a result. While Angelou's six autobiographies tell of her out in the world, influencing and learning from statesmen and cultural icons, Mom & Me & Mom shares the intimate, emotional story about her own family. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

ebook of the month
Wide Sargasso Sea

Wide Sargasso Sea

Author: Jean Rhys, Andrea Ashworth Format: Hardback Release Date: 06/10/2016

Inspired by Charlotte Bronte, Jean Rhys turns one of her stories on its head and creates an absolute masterpiece in her sublimely crisp reimaging of Jane Eyre. Through making Bertha, the "madwoman in the attic", her narrator, Rhys makes and powerful statement about agency, and who gets to have their story told.    Born into the oppressive, colonialist society of 1930s Jamaica, white Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway meets a young Englishman who is drawn to her innocent beauty and sensuality. After their marriage, however, disturbing rumours begin to circulate which poison her husband against her. Caught between his demands and her own precarious sense of belonging, Antoinette is inexorably driven towards madness, and her husband into the arms of another novel's heroine. This classic study of betrayal, a seminal work of postcolonial literature, is Jean Rhys' brief, beautiful masterpiece. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

The Power

The Power

Author: Naomi Alderman Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/04/2017

Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

ebook of the month

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