Written by Sophie Wyatt
In the words of Simone de Beauvoir, ‘One is not born, but rather becomes a woman’. International Women’s Day has come around once again and with it, it’s annual theme. This year’s theme is ‘Choose to Challenge’, so we have put together a list of books by female authors who are definitely challenging the system with their writing.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
The plot of Bernardine Evaristo’s eighth novel ‘Girl, Woman, Other’, follows the lives and struggles of a dozen black women as they navigate through different generations and times in Britain. From the ages of 19 to 93, each character has a completely different experience in life, from Carole, a business woman who grew up trying to deal with a sexual assault from her childhood, to Morgan who is non-binary and is still understanding about themselves through the internet. While many novels give black women very little chance to identify with characters through lack of representation, Evaristo uses her novel to create an inclusive piece for many women from different generations and walks of life.
Ladies Can’t Climb Ladders: The Pioneering Adventures of the First Professional Women by Jane Robinson
‘Ladies Can’t Climb Ladders’ champions the lives of women pioneering careers in industries such as medicine, architecture, law, engineering, academia and the church. Jane Robinson uses her studies to delve into the lives of these unsung heroines, their ambitions, dreams and how they navigate themselves through family’s and society’s views of the emerging class of working women. Highlighting issues such as the gender pay gap and equal opportunity, Robinson explores whether it is possible for women to have the desired balance of life and work in modern society.
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Award winning author Candice Carty-Williams’ novel ‘Queenie’ follows the trials and tribulations of 25-year-old Queenie as she figures her way through life, love, and daily micro-aggressions. Finding herself in sexual experiences with men that fetishise her body and being patronised and man-handled by women throughout the book, Queenie’s character is not only relatable in terms of her struggles in finding her purpose, but also highlights such important and often dismissed struggles that black women face daily.
My Wild Sleepless Nights by Clover Stroud
‘My Wild Sleepless Nights’ follows the trials and tribulations of Clover Stroud as she navigates family life over two decades. Full of unrestricted emotions from overwhelming happiness to crippling despair, Stroud’s account explores what it means to be a mother, warts and all. This novel asks the questions that many are to nervous to ask, not only about motherhood but topics such as female sexuality and identity.
Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History by Kate Schatz
With well researched information on diverse figures from 430 BCE to 2016, from 31 different countries around the world, from legendary teen punk and X-Ray Spex lead singer Poly Styrene, to the female king Hatshepsut who ruled Egypt peacefully for two decades. Full of rad women and their stories, this book is essential in understanding and appreciating the history of women (and their radness of course). The novel also includes 250 names of other incredible women for readers who wish to carry on their research.
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
In this eloquent and well-informed essay, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explores issues from her well-known Tedx talk of the same name. Delving into the realities of sexual politics, feminism, and what it really means to be a woman, Adichie gives a unique perspective whilst drawing on her own personal experiences. The piece really questions what feminism is today. Adichie also explores why the divide between genders is detrimental for both women and men alike.
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
And finally, we finish with a classic. Simone de Beauvoir’s extensive and groundbreaking study of women was born out of the existentialist movement is a landmark in the study of women; their sociology, anthropology and biology. Exploring female freedom, deeply engrained beliefs on the female form and the relationship between men and women, Simone de Beauvoir is nothing short of a feminist icon, and ‘The Second Sex’ only solidifies that.