International Women’s Day Reading List

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in possession of her own life will go out into the world and create things. Since it is International Women’s Day, we have gathered a range of women’s authors coming from different parts of the globe who write about their experiences to bear testimony, to share their insight and opinions or to write for writing’s sake.

Fiction

MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION by OTTESA MOSHFEGH

If all the major factors that a person should need to be happy are already set in place, why would they descend into gloom? This is the case for our unnamed protagonist of this novel, who has decided to escape reality by sleeping through a whole year. She has a meticulously crafted plan in which she gets her psychiatrist, who clearly shouldn’t be a licenced practitioner, to percript high quantities of sleeping pills. Funny, dark and poignant, Moshgegh offers a psycho-noir tale that raises questions of alienation, the impossibility of fulfilling women’s beauty standards and their attempt at happiness. 

HURRICANE SEASON by FERNANDA MELCHOR

In a nearby town of Veracruz (Mexico) the corpse of a woman is found by a group of children. She is known as ‘The Witch’ – shunned by the society for practicing ‘witchcraft’ but providing for medical care to whoever will come to her. The novel blends the mythological aspects of the town with visceral realism, we are met with the realities of feminicide and casts its gaze to the manifestations of misogyny in Mexican culture.

MY BRILLIANT FRIEND by ELENA FERRANTE

Lila and Lenu are two girls growing up in the same village close to Naples. Narrated by Lenu, Elena Ferrate creates a vivid depiction of post-war Italy, the rise of the mafia, and more importantly, female friendship. These two friends have a symbiotic friendship in which each will try what they can to make a life for themselves and by themselves, leaving previous archetypes of women behind. 

BELOVED by TONI MORRISON

This heart-wrenching novel depicts the realities of slave women in America. Following the story of Sethe, a woman who cannot free herself from the shackles of slavery or the traumatic memories of what she has been through. Morrison imagines the reality of what it means to be a mother and a slave in impecable language and a haunting narrative that illuminates the unspoken parts of American History. 

A MANUAL FOR CLEANING WOMEN by LUCIA BERLIN

Some believe that one of the best ways to become a writer is to lead an eventful life. This is definitely the case for Lucia Berlin, a woman who travelled and worked a range of jobs around North America. She depicts the characters she met along the way with wit, humour and permeating melancholy. Sometimes addressing you – the reader – directly, Berlin depicts magnetic characters that explore the less glamorous parts of life. 

DIE, MY LOVE by ARIANA HARWICZ

A book about loneliness, a slow-simmering journey through a woman’s life living in the French countryside waiting to have a breaking point. In this story, we follow a woman who has a family, a husband and a child but she is completely estranged from them weaving a narrative of confusion and fear and trying to come to terms with being an irredeemable character. 

MINOR DETAIL by ADANIA SHIBLI

This book is set ia year after the Nabka, the story tells about a group of Israeli soldiers that rape and kill and woman, leaving her dead on the sand. Many years later, a woman journalist becomes interested in the details of the story, exploring the vestiges of war, memory and a depiction of a life under occupation. 

Non-fiction

THE UNWOMANLY FACE OF WAR by SVETLANA ALEXIEVITCH 

Alexievitch presents us with a kaleidoscopic pluriphonic book that tackles the memories of women in the Soviet Union becoming soldiers during the Second World War. As the title suggests, this book presents the actuality of war and the significant role that women were ready to take up during times of hardship and horror. 

I, RIGOBERTA MENCHU by RIGOBERTA MENCHU

The Guatemalan Peace Prize Laureate takes us through her life as a Maya-Quiche in Guatemala during a time when her community was being systematically killed by the Guatemalan government. Interestingly, the book is written from a series of interviews that were led by a French Scholar who translated her words into the written word since the Maya-Quiche continues to be an oral culture today.  

BLUE NIGHTS by JOAN DIDION

A book about love and loss – Joan Didion gifted us a refined exploration of grief in The Year of Magical Thinking, in which she explored her feelings after the passing of her longlife partner. In Blue Nights, Didion explores the death of her daughter, Quintana, who passes away some time after her spouse. Blending Memoir and explorations of womanhood – Didion has given us a book that remains unmatched in the like.

TRANS: A MEMOIR by JULIET JACQUES

Juliet Jacques walks us through her experiences growing up as a trans-woman in Britain. She starts with her journey of self-discovery in Brighton and goes into her Sex Reassignment Surgery later in life. Trans remains today an necessary read for anyone who wants to understand the politics of gender and sex in both the United Kingdom and abroad. 

LA MORT NE VEUT PAS DE MOI by YOLANDE MUKAGASANA

A harrowing narrative about the Rwandan genocide, Mukagasana walks us through her life right before the start of the Tutsi killings and her experiences whilst trying to survive. After the genocide ends, she has lost all her children and her husband. An incredibly important work that was the first memoir to portray the experiences of Tutsis during and after the genocide. 

By Tatiana Valeska Köhler

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