It’s no secret that literary awards has been a place where sexism has thrived. I’ve discussed issues with literary prizes before and I’m not going to rehash them in this post. Instead, the topic today is the lack of books written about women. Hence, the need for this post about women in literature. Let me explain.
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Women in Literature: Books Written by Females, About Females, and For Females
A few years back, British-born author Nicola Griffith brought to light a shocking statistic — only six major awards for the Pulitzer Prize in the past 15 years showed female subjects as the predominant focus of winning novels. Instead, major literary awards have often gone to books written about men.
So, how do we change this? We start with the obvious – we read women.
Major literary award or not, the female gender has published an immeasurable amount of profound, enduring literature. Many books illustrate this point by giving us insight into the little-known lives, trials, and celebratory moments of women across various cultures throughout the world.
To celebrate female authors and their stories of strong females, here’s a small list of books to start your reading journey.
Some Girls: My Life in a Harem by Jillian Lauren
Some Girls is Jillian Lauren’s autobiographical account of her experiences as one of the paid call girls of Prince Jefri Bolkiah, brother of the Sultan of Brunei, in the ’90s. It’s a shocking story of how a girl moves from the suburbs to a prince’s harem and comes out from the secret Xanadu with more wisdom than before.
The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich
As a personal narrative, confession, and document, The Unwomanly Face of War offers accounts of 200 women. The pages describe how young girls, who dreamed of becoming brides, became soldiers in 1941. This astonishing account of the experience of Russian woman won a Nobel Prize.
Black and White Sands by Elma Napier
Elma Napier’s fascination with Dominica, then a British colony, began in 1932 when she left London’s high society to make a new home in a far-away coastal village on a Caribbean island. Black and White Sands is the story of her life there.
And quite the life it was, from war to parties, as well as smugglers and deaths. For women in literature, this book is an example of strong women in literature where both the author and main character are one.
It’s Every Monkey for Themselves by Vanessa Woods
It’s Every Monkey for Themselves is the story of a young woman grappling with the usual big issues of young adulthood — love, sex, friendship and figuring out what she wants from life. What’s unique though is that this empowering female character is simultaneously trying to conduct research on capuchin monkeys, shoot a documentary, and stay alive in the jungles of Costa Rica.
More Women in Literature: Heart of Fire by Senait G. Mehari
Author Senait G. Mehari grew up in an orphanage in the ’70s after being abandoned by her Ethiopian mother and Eritrean father. Then, only four years after returning to her father, the threat of war was read; astonishingly, he decided to give Senait to the rebel troops of the Eritrean Liberation Front.
Heart of Fire is one girl’s extraordinary journey from child soldier to soul singer. Read about how she reached personal and professional success; it’s quite the journey!
The Free Negress Elisabeth by Cynthia McLeod
This is the story of Elisabeth Samson, a free black Surinamese woman who lived in 18th-century Dutch Guiana, South Africa. Challenging dominant racial stereotypes of that time, Elisabeth sets her mind to marry a white man to defy set norms and conventions.
This biographical account lets readers into the complex social and racial layers of slave colonies of that period. Also, The Free Negress Elisabeth is an amazing example of women in literature overcoming discrimination and prejudice. In this story, Elisabeth rises in wealth, although I won’t give away any specifics that would ruin your read.
On Women in Literature
While these are remarkable reads offerings insights into female lives around the world, there are more amazing women in literature. To learn more about these books and similar world reads, this interactive literary map designed by CarRentals is a great resource.
Do you have other reads to recommend? Maybe they’re about females or have a female author, please share a bit about the books you love in a comment below.