10 Books For International Women’s Day You Must Read
These books are my favorite five-star fiction reads from the last six months of reading and they’re not in any particular order. I strongly recommend these books for International Women’s Day for their topics and storytelling.
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1. Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
Genre: Historical Fiction, Lesbian Fiction
A young oyster girl from Whitstable falls in love with a music hall actress named Kitty Butler. Kitty is a male impersonator and Nan is completely obsessed with her. Soon enough, she has left her family behind for London’s world of music and plays and to act as Kitty’s dresser. She eventually finds herself on stage with Kitty and the two of them take London by storm until people start figuring out that their relationship isn’t just based on friendship.
As Nancy moves from one job to the next trying to find her place in the world, readers are carried into a world of cross-dressing lesbians in Victorian England.
Waters covers themes of identity, gender roles, and sexuality in such ways that the reader is completely spellbound.
2. Women Talking by Miriam Toews
Genre: Religion, Feminism
Women Talking is based on a real story. The author is a Canadian writer of Mennonite descent. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Toews has written this novel to acknowledge the Mennonite and non-Mennonite women living in patriarchal, authoritarian communities around the globe.
In Women Talking, eight Mennonite women are embroiled in a secret meeting in a hay loft to discuss how they should handle the rapes of over one hundred girls in their colony. They’ve just learned that the men of the colony were sneaking into bedrooms at night and spraying their victims with belladonna to render them unconscious before committing unspeakable acts on them. The youngest victim is a child. The nightly attacks were blamed on ghosts and demons as punishment for their ‘sins’.
The men are away from the community and trying to bail the rapists out of jail and bring them home. The women are meeting to decide what to do with the rapists. They have a choice to make:
1. Do nothing
2. Stay and fight
Being uneducated and unable to read or write, the women have brought in a former Mennonite outcast named August, who will take the meeting minutes and cover the options the women come up with as they decide their future together. This also allows their story to be told to the outside world.
Will they stay with the group of men who drugged and attacked them? If so, how will they protect other women and their daughters from being attacked again? Should they ask the men to leave? Should the women leave? What good would come of confronting the men in their colony that committed these crimes, especially when their leader knows about it?
How will they make it on their own outside the colony without any kind of education, without speaking English, and only knowing one way of life?
“The entire colony of Molotschna is built on the foundation of patriarchy… where the women live out their days as mute, submissive and obedient servants.”Miriam Toews, Women Talking
“We do know that the conditions of Molotschna have been created by man, that these attacks have been made possible, even the conception of these acts, the planning of these attacks, the rationale for these attacks within the minds of the men, because of the circumstances of Molotschna. And those circumstances have been created and ordained by the men, by the elders and by Peters.”– Miriam Toews, Women Talking
3. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Genre: Race, Cultural – AfricanAmerican
2018 National Book Awards: Fiction
Winner of the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction
Roy is young black executive and Celestial is an emerging young artist in Atlanta when their lives are ripped apart. They have been married for just over a year when Roy is wrongly accused of raping a woman at a hotel that he is staying at with his wife. He is convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
At first, Roy and Celestial are completely devoted to each other and continue their marriage through a series of letters that become increasingly uncertain on both sides as time marches onwards for each of them.
Roy feels that it is Celestial’s duty to put her life on hold and wait for him for 12 years. After just a few years in jail, Celestial has continued on with her life, but continues to write to Roy, put credit on his account at jail, and do her best to support him. Eventually, Roy cuts her off and goes silent on her, refusing to see her. Roy claims he is a victim, but Celestial is also a victim, and so is their marriage.
An American Marriage is told in alternating points of view between Roy, Celestial, and Celestial’s best friend, Andre. This is the only way to tell their story of love and loyalty, and what it means to be a black man or a black woman in the 21st century in America. Each character is fleshed out and profoundly interesting. I couldn’t help but feel empathy for all three of them and what they go through to find happiness in their lives.
An American Marriage cleverly highlights the plight of black men in America and the number of men who go to jail that are innocent.
Is a woman supposed to wait for her man to be released and then pretend like nothing happened and take him back, even though he is innocent? Or is she allowed to move on and make a life for herself?
What happened to Roy was not fair. What happened to Celestial was also not fair. Both of them suffered, but Roy clearly suffered more. Is Celestial supposed to acknowledge this and give up her happiness to ensure that he is happy? Is this a wife’s duty to her man?
This was such a difficult book to write, but it was moving, eye-opening, and unflinching in its honesty.
“A woman doesn’t always have a choice, not in a meaningful way. Sometimes there is a debt that must be paid, a comfort that she is obliged to provide, a safe passage that must be secured. Everyone of us has lain down for a reason that was not love.”Tayari Jones, An American Marriage
“The vast generosity of women is a mysterious tunnel, and nobody knows where it leads. The writing on the walls spells out trick questions, and as a man, you must know that you cannot reason your way out.”Tayari Jones, An American Marriage
4. Godshot by Chelsea Bieker
The town of Peaches, California is in a massive drought, filled with barren farms and bad water. The residents of Peaches believe that Pastor Vern will lead them to better times if they listen to him and follow his guidance. Pastor Vern, as we learn pretty quickly, is a con artist and a rapist. But the town is in dire straits and they believe deeply in their cult leader. Thus they go along with his secret assignments that he promises will bring the rain to Peaches.
His secret assignments, of course, are having the boys commit crimes against young women of child-bearing age.
Lacey May’s world is turned upside-down when her mother is exiled from the community and then abandons her young teenage daughter to run off with a man she hardly knows. Lacey May moves in with her grandmother and under her care, she endures appalling acts of violence from the men in the community. She also uncovers Pastor Vern’s plan to make the land fertile again, and decides to find her way through the craziness.
Filled with grit, resilience, and an unstoppable young woman, Godshot is filled with female friendship and the vengeance of one young woman who dares to stick her neck out and say no to a man.
5. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
Genre: Literary Fiction, Feminism, Race, LGBT
Joint Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2019
Evaristo is a talented writer! Girl, Woman, Other is a beautiful book. The prose, scope, and quality of the writing is stunning. Man Booker Prize winners are always known for a unique style of writing.
Do not let the prose put you off this book or the fact that it is broken up into 12 stories about 12 women. You’ll quickly find your rhythm and it’s all connected, like all women are.
This story centers around Amma and her opening play night, featuring black, British women who tell their stories of life in Britain and how they came to be on stage, whether it’s by talking about their families, how they found their place in the world, or how they loved and lost. Some of these stories shocked, while others felt warm and comfortable.
this is about being
Evaristo presents a moving feminist narrative that dips into the past and towards the future. She includes a broad spectrum of voices and spares no time in showing all the different backgrounds, occupations, families, ages, and love with each woman.
There is no subject she leaves unturned and she tells these stories so well, it becomes a profoundly moving read within its first few pages.
“women who miraculously spend their working day wearing bondage-tight skirts and vertiginous, destabilizing heels which make their feet look bound the erogenous zones of crushed muscles and cramped bones, encased in upmarket strippers’ heels and if she has to cripple herself to signal her education, talent, intellect, skills and leadership potential then so be it”Bernardine Evaristo, Girl, Woman, Other
“gender is one of the biggest lies of our civilization”Bernardine Evaristo, Girl, Woman, Other
“her mission has begun – to make history fun and relevant because we need to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past and to deepen our understanding of who we are as the human race, don’t we, class?”Bernardine Evaristo, Girl, Woman, Other
6. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Contemporary Adult, LGBT
Joint Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2019
“Don’t ignore half of me so you can fit me into a box. Don’t do that.”
Aging starlet Evelyn Hugo is not the sum of the men she married, although some might think she is based on the number of times she has been married. When Evelyn Hugo is ready to reveal her life to stardom, she hand-picks a magazine reporter named Monique to write her ‘reveal it all’ biography.
Hugo takes Monique on a journey through LA in the 50s up until she leaves the world of show biz in the 80s. In each chapter, she reveals the story about her time spent with each husband. This is old Hollywood writing and all the glitz and glam is there to enjoy.
‘Who was the great love of your life?’ seems like a reasonable question until we realize that Hugo is about to reveal a part of her life that only a handful of people knew about. She is unflinching in honesty about her own behavior and growth, all the while revealing the levels she was willing to go to to keep her one true love a secret, since their love is forbidden. I loved the descriptions of Evelyn’s love for Celia and the growth, compassion, and wisdom she gained from that love.
7. The Push by Ashley Audrain
Genre: Thriller, Psychological Thriller
“These are thoughts I never let leave my lips. These are thoughts most mothers don’t have.”― Ashley Audrain, The Push
A raw, dark thriller that is binge-worthy and will keep you guessing until the end. In The Push, Blythe knows something is wrong with her child and everyone think she’s crazy. You won’t be able to put this book down.
If you liked Zoje Stage’s Baby Teeth, you’ll likely enjoy this book!
“Before we were conceived, we existed in part as an egg in our mother’s ovary. All the eggs a woman will ever carry form in her ovaries while she is a four-month-old fetus in the womb of her mother. This means our cellular life as an egg begins in the womb of our grandmother. Each of us spent five months in our grandmother’s womb and she in turn formed within the womb of her grandmother. We vibrate to the rhythms of our mother’s blood before she herself is born.”Ashley Audrain, The Push
8. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
Genre: Historical Fiction
“When women are gathered together with no men around, they don’t have to be anything in particular; they can just be.”Elizabeth Gilbert, City of Girls
This book is a gem.
First of all, it has one of the best opening sentences I’ve ever read: “In the summer of 194o, when I was nineteen years old and an idiot, my parents sent me to live with my aunt Peg, who owned a theater company in New York City.
Right then I knew I was in for a treat, for what better way is there to sum up a young girl and her life choices on the cusp of her 20s?
City of Girls is set in New York in the 1940s. Young Vivian Morris is 19 years old and she has just moved to New York to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns the Lily Playhouse. Vivian is soon immersed in the scandalous world of live theater, and she fits right in with her youth and zest for life. Best of all, she can sew as much as she wants and never has to worry about becoming a secretary or having to push papers.
Vivian becomes best friends with Celia Day, a glamorous show girl at the playhouse who shows her how to have fun and live it up. The two of them get into loads of trouble and explore New York in every way possible. Vivian has never known such excitement before and she’s written her story here for us to enjoy.
This book is impeccably written and researched with many wise words of wisdom for women. It’s a novel about women and friendship, and the choices that women make. It’s about youth and freedom and making mistakes and learning how to live with them.
A lifelong tale from a woman written in her old age who can reflect back on her youth with an unflinching eye and say that she loved all the experiences that made her who she is today – the good ones and the bad.
What a great story about feminism, female friendship, resilience, love, and living life on your own terms. Who cares what anyone thinks!
“Never has it felt more important for me to tell stories of joy and abandon, passion and recklessness. Life is short and difficult, people. We must take our pleasures where we can find them. Let us not become so cautious that we forget to live.”Elizabeth Gilbert, City of Girls
“Anyway, at some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time. After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is.”Elizabeth Gilbert, City of Girls
9. After the Flood by Kassandra Montag
Genre: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Adventure
This book was so beautiful! I loved how poetic it was. Wonderful writing and storytelling.
I’ve read a lot of science fiction and dystopian fiction this year. It’s one of my favorite genres, so when new releases come out, I’m quick to buy.
A century from now, the world is a different place. America has been flooded and the only pieces of land left are mountaintop colonies surrounded by huge expanses of water. A great number of survivors are captured and put on slave ships or raider ships.
Myra and her seven-year-old daughter Pearl have managed to stay on their boat, the Bird, since the flooding began. They spend most of their time on the water fishing to trade for supplies and information at outposts. During the entire seven years that they have been at sea, Myra has also been searching for her other daughter Row, who was stolen from her for a slave ship. Myra is determined to rescue her daughter.
While on their way to find Row, Myra and Pearl rescue a man named Daniel, and the three of them eventually cross paths with a larger ship. They are welcomed aboard the new ship, but Myra is suspicious about other people aboard this ship. Additionally, how will she convince them to help her find Row? Will she have to deceive them? Are they going to deceive her? And what has happened to little Row? Is she still alive?
“I had waited so long to prove myself wrong. To prove that I have room in me for everything I’ve lost and will lose, that the room in my heart will grow with loss and not contract. And I hadn’t just found it to be true; I’d made it true. I am not the shards of a broken glass, but the water let loose from it. The uncontainable thing that will not shatter and stay broken.”Kassandra Montag, After the Flood
“I keep thinking grief feels like climbing a staircase while looking down,” she said. “You won’t forget where you’ve been, but you’ve got to keep rising. It all gets farther away, but it’s all still there. And you’ve only got one way to go and you don’t really want to go on rising, but you’ve got to. And that tightness in your chest doesn’t go away, but you somehow go on breathing that thinner, higher air. It’s like you grow a third lung. Like you’ve somehow gotten bigger when you thought you were only broken.”Kassandra Montag, After the Flood
10. Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
Miracle Creek is another debut novel that is unlike anything I’ve read before. Kim tells the story of an immigrant family from South Korea that moves to the US to start their own business. They offer hyperbaric oxygen therapy known in town as the Miracle Submarine. The treatments are thought to assist patients who are autistic or infertile because oxygen enables damaged cells to heal and regrow faster. Miracle Submarine offers hope to many different kinds of patients who have lost hope with traditional means of healing.
Most of all, it offers hope to a young immigrant family who have put their lives and finances into their business in order to see their daughter Mary live a better life.
Those dreams are shattered when there is an explosion, causing two patients to die and four others to be severely injured. While the family struggles to clear their names of an insurance scam, a young mother is charged with arson and murder for not ‘acting appropriately’ in the wake of her child’s death. Or maybe the explosion was caused by someone else?
That’s it! As always, I hope you enjoy my reading suggestions. Feel free to follow me on Goodreads for more content! I’d love to know if you’ve read any of the books on my list. Don’t forget to check out my World of Books here on My Several Worlds.
What would you add for International Women’s Day?
Stay tuned for Part Two when I cover my top 10 non fiction reads for Women’s History Month!
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