Feminist Bookshelf

Maegan Farrow gives us the rundown on what books should be up next on our reading lists.

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

This compelling novel follows a young family who create their home atop a mountain in Idaho, U.S.A. When tragedy strikes, Ruskovichi explores the vastly different ways these individuals respond to hardship. She deftly switches between narrators and jumps between time periods to develop these complex characters, who are crafted in a strikingly human way. Grief is central to the book, and the exploration of how women and girls interact with one-another at different stages of their lives is particularly touching.

Girl by Edna O’Brien

Set in Nigeria, this novel tells the story  of a young schoolgirl who is kidnapped by Boko Haram. Given the premise, this book is harrowing, but it’s written beautifully, in such a way that its fast pace never feels rushed or leaves gaps in the main character – Maryam’s – story. The sisterly bond  between Maryam and her school friends, their youthful innocence taken from them violently, and the motherhood forced upon Maryam are complex themes that run through the novel and raise uncomfortable, yet vital, questions. The story does not shy away from the reality of Nigerian culture and values, which can exacerbate victims’ suffering. It is a bare-faced and honest story, which shows that these women are more than just the trauma they have experienced. 

Sarong Party Girls by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

Sarong Party Girls is a book close to my heart because it’s set in my hometown of Singapore! It’s written in Singlish, Singaporean slang, so it makes for a very interesting (and educational) read. The novel follows Jazzy, a young woman who is a self-identified Sarong Party Girl, or S.P.G. Though the story is satirical and rarely takes itself seriously, there are moments in the novel where serious themes are explored, such as interracial romantic relationships, sexism in Asia, and the generational gap between modern Asians and their parents. What I think is truly special about Sarong Party Girls is its unapologetic acceptance of Singaporean culture. It embraces imperfect English, but also touches on a problematic inferiority complex young Asian women can have around white expat men, that is fed by the society they live in and the value it attributes to women with and without a white husband.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe is the second book by author Madeline Miller whose debut novel, The Song of Achilles, won the Orange Prize in 2012. This novel is inspired by the sorceress  Circe from Greek Mythology, but reimagines her as a fully fleshed-out character struggling for independence, while her power is simultaneously underappreciated and feared by the men around her. We meet Circe as a child, with a father she can never impress and who cares little for her. We watch her grow into a young woman and venture into romantic relationships, where she makes mistakes and is taken advantage of. The story explores themes of girlhood and motherhood, but also considers how women can build their own families and take control of their lives, by acting unconventionally within their restrictive environment. You grow with Circe in this book, and root for her all the way through to the end.

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

This incredibly unique and engaging novelis based on accounts from real women the author met while writing the book. It explores three American women’s experiences of of marriage, sex, love, exploitation and sexism. The book jumps between the women’s voices which provides some diversity for the reader and emphasises the differences in their lives.  How they interact with their sexual partners, children, and family provides incredible insight into the different ways a woman can behave in the roles she occupies in her life. Additional must-reads are the joint-winners of the Man Booker Prize for 2019 – Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo and The Testaments by Margaret Atwood!

Artwork by Aggie Tate.

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