It’s been a few weeks since I’ve done a Recommended Reading post. To be honest, there were a few books I wanted to read before I wrote this one – really, there’s a whole library of books I want to read before writing this post – but at this point, I’ve read enough to feel confident with my first five picks (I will most likely be doing a few posts on this particular topic). Okay, that was a needlessly long intro, let’s get on with the books:
- The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë. I read this book last month and it immediately became an unexpected favorite. Despite being written in the early 19th century, and by a woman whose sisters wrote some arguably un-feminist romances, this book is one of the most subtly strong feminist novels I have ever read. It’s about a woman who decides to take her son and flee an abusive relationship. It’s not just the fact that she decides to leave – an incredibly difficult feat for a woman in the 1820s – but that the husband’s abuse is not physical, but emotional, verbal, and mental, that makes this book so groundbreaking. I loved it! It will definitely become a book I reread every so often, just like the next pick on my list….
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Is this book really feminist, you ask? Well, I wrote a graduate level paper arguing that it is (and got an A), so yeah. It is. And I decided to upload my paper for you to read – just click here – so if you’re interested, feel free to download it (fair warning, it’s 18 pages long, and it’s on Turnitin, so don’t try to plagiarize – I’m not providing homework help here). The short version: even though Austen portrays the stereotypical early nineteenth-century woman (i.e. one who is frivolous, but class-conscious and decidedly not independent or ambitious), so does so in a negative light – like the ever-so-annoying Lydia and Mrs. Bennet – and makes strong-willed Lizzy the heroine of the story. Spoiler: a few of the male characters also subvert society’s expectations when it comes to the treatment of women, which is awesome. It’s highly likely that Austen and Brontë were both inspired by the writings of Mary Wollstonecraft – the mother of feminism (and also of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly, author of Frankenstein).
- Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling. There is a plethora of strong, unique, intelligent, and multi-dimensional female characters is Rowling’s series. Just look at Hermione Granger, Luna Lovegood, Mrs. Weasley, Narcissa Malfoy, Professor McGonnagall, Madam Pomfrey, Professor Sprout, Mrs. Figg, Fleur Delacour, and even characters like Bellatrix Lestrange and Dolores Umbridge. In my opinion, portraying strong women, but making them all the same or one-dimensional, is almost as bad as making them appear weak. Women can be the top of their class and fight for good, like Hermione, but they can also be evil, like Umbridge. I love the variety in Rowling’s books, and some of my favorite moments were when those female characters were truly badass (“Not my daughter, you bitch!”).
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Going into this book, I was expecting it to primarily address race relations, as it takes place in Georgia in the 1930s. But it was much more about feminism, which I absolutely loved! This book definitely addresses some difficult topics: rape, verbal and physical abuse, class and race hierarchies, etc. I would consider it a must-read book for any feminist (so, everyone). I also highly recommend the audiobook of this one, which is read by Alice Walker and is just perfect.
- How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran. This book will not be everyone’s cup of tea. But it really encompasses a lot of feminist issues that arise when you’re growing up and trying to find yourself, especially as a girl. I loved that the protagonist does things in the name of feminism, but often finds herself doing the wrong thing, or kind of just blundering around, because isn’t that what we all do? This book, more than the others on this list, is about learning how to be a feminist while remaining an individual. I really enjoyed it!
There are about a million more books on my TBR that could have probably made this list, so I’m sure I will do another one eventually, after I make my way through a few more. (I’m also planning on doing a post all about feminist nonfiction soon, because I’ve been reading quite a bit of that as well.) I hope you enjoyed this installment of ! Let me know if you’ve read any of these books and what you thought of them.
What books would you add to this list?