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Doing the Popsugar Reading Challenge 2018? Here’s a fabulous booklist about women by women, for doing a feminist reading challenge variation for 2018.
The internet provides a plethora of fun options to satiate the bookworm in many of us but one of the special and awaited ones is the annual Popsugar Reading Challenge, providing as many as fifty prompts for books to read. As interesting as it looks, I know it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea to actually take out the time to find books for each prompt, but that is exactly what I am here for.
After putting in hours of research, here’s presenting you with a curated list of fifty (or more) books for fifty Popsugar prompts. Each book is written by a female author, is women-centric and a must-read for anyone heading into the world of feminist literature or someone who is all set to take on a feminist reading challenge. Here is a personal booklist that I would love to take up as a feminist reading challenge if I were to sign up for it.
From works by Virginia Woolf to Kamala Markandaya, from a children’s classic to a sci-fi thriller, and from stories of entrepreneurial success to the acceptance of oneself – this feminist reading challenge will equip you with a hundred different perspectives and a multitude of emotions to better understand women in writing as well as in life.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women — two whom are women of colour — in 1962 Mississippi, whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women — mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends — view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.
Get your copy here.
Still Midnight by Denise Mina
Still Midnight is set in Glasgow, and is the first of a series of books following policewoman Alex Morrow. Armed men invade a family home, shouting for a man nobody’s heard of. As DS Morrow tries to uncover one family’s secrets, she must protect her own.
The Story Of A New name by Elena Ferrante
A modern masterpiece series of 4 books from one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors, the first book My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighbourhood, a city and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her two protagonists. The Story Of A New Name is second in the series.
Heist Society by Ally Carter
When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own — scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving ‘the life’ for a normal life proves harder than she’d expected. Now she’s got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family’s history.
The Ice Beneath Her by Camilla Grebe
An unidentified woman lies beheaded in a posh suburban home—a brutal crime made all the more disturbing by its uncanny resemblance to an unsolved killing ten years earlier. But this time there’s a suspect: the charismatic and controversial chain-store CEO Jesper Orre, who owns the home but is nowhere to be found.
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all her characters, making this novel a triumph of storytelling through women whose struggles for liberation and empowerment will leave no reader unmoved.
To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
The novel focuses on the Ramsay family and their visits to the Isle of Skye in Scotland between 1910 and 1920. To the Lighthouse is divided into three sections: “The Window,” “Time Passes,” and “The Lighthouse.” Each section is fragmented into stream-of-consciousness contributions from various narrators.
The Thousand Faces of Night by Githa Hariharan
Devi returns to Madras with an American degree, only to be sucked in by the old order of things — a demanding mother’s love, a suitable but hollow marriage, an unsuitable lover who offers a brief escape. Mayamma knows how to survive as the old family retainer, bending the way the wind blows. But, through Devi, she too can see a different life. A subtle and tender tale of women’s lives in India, the novel is structured with the delicacy and precision of a piece of music.
Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The vain and selfish Scarlet is the perfect antihero of the classics. The novel depicts the struggles of young Scarlett O’Hara, the spoiled daughter of a well-to-do plantation owner, who must use every means at her disposal to claw her way out of poverty amidst the American Civil War.
Mother of 1084 by Mahasweta Devi
Hajar Churashir Maa or Mother of 1084 is story of a mother whose son, corpse number 1084 in the morgue, was brutally killed by the state because of his ideology of advocating the brutal killing of class enemies, collaborators with the State and counter-revolutionaries within the Party. It’s a story of a mother as she relives, years later, the death of her son in the political upheaval that left almost no home untouched.
Middlemarch by George Eliot (i.e. Mary Ann Evans)
Mary Ann Evans used the male pseudonym for her politically astute writings, and Middlemarch is her masterpiece. The novel explores a fictional nineteenth-century Midlands town in the midst of modern changes, with simple characters and ordinary life being portrayed with detail and intricacy. Evans’ realism and humanism is reflected in the character of Dorothea.
Pages For You by Sylvia Browning
Flannery is discovering her new college, the East Coast and herself, as she falls for the sophisticated and older Ann Arden, until one day she learns more than she wanted to. Winner of 2002 Lambda Literary Award, this book takes a journey into same-sex love and a lot more.
Rudali by Mahasweta Devi
Rudali centers on two women who develop a partnership for survival. It is one of the haunting stories that come from remote villages in Rajasthan. The novel depicts struggle against poverty, humiliation and wrecked by an exploitative, patriarchal, caste-based social system. Damaged by their own family, community members or the ruling rich, these women can either submit to a relegated existence, which became prostitutes for survival, or challenge and fight. The novel was turned into a play by Usha Ganguli.
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of the farm where so many hideous things happened. Her new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.
Seeing Like A Feminist by Nivedita Menon
For Nivedita Menon, feminism is not about a moment of final triumph over patriarchy but about the gradual transformation of the social field. from the ban on the veil in France to the attempt to impose skirts on international women badminton players, Menon insists that feminism complicates the field irrevocably.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath,
Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational—as accessible an experience as going to the movies.
Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Mrs Dalloway details Clarissa Dalloway’s preparations for a party of which she is to be hostess, exploring the hidden springs of thought and action in one day of a woman’s life. The novel “contains some of the most beautiful, complex, incisive and idiosyncratic sentences ever written in English, and that alone would be reason enough to read it. It is one of the most moving, revolutionary artworks of the twentieth century”.
Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit
This book features that now-classic essay with six perfect complements, including an examination of the writer Virginia Woolf ’s embrace of mystery, of not knowing, of doubt and ambiguity, a highly original inquiry into marriage equality, and a terrifying survey of the scope of contemporary violence against women.
Madwoman In The Attic by Sandra Gilbert, Susan Gubar
Over 700 pages long, The Madwoman in the Attic presents an analysis of a trope found in 19th-century literature. Gilbert and Gubar proposed that all female characters in male-authored novels can be categorised as either an angel or a monster; women in fiction were either pure and submissive or sensual, rebellious, and uncontrollable (very undesirable qualities in a Victorian daughter/mother/wife).
Unbreakable by M C Mary Kom
M.C. Mary Kom tells her story so far, no holds barred – her tough childhood, her rebellions, how long she waited for Onler to propose marriage, how she was willing to run away with him, and how she secured her space in the male world of boxing. It’s all packed into this inspiring, exhilarating tale of a woman who faced impossible odds in a man’s world – and won.
When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of The Writer As A Young Wife by Meena Kandasamy
Seduced by politics, poetry and an enduring dream of building a better world together, the unnamed narrator falls in love with a university professor. Moving with him to a rain-washed coastal town, she swiftly learns that what for her is a bond of love is for him a contract of ownership. As he sets about reducing her to his idealized version of an obedient wife, bullying her and devouring her ambition of being a writer in the process, she attempts to push back – a resistance he resolves to break with violence and rape.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Set in the deep American South between the wars, The Color Purple is the classic tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by her ‘father’, she has two children taken away from her and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.
Gods, Grave and Grandmother by Namita Gokhale
When Gudiya arrives to Delhi with her grandmother Ammi, a series of unexpected twists take place. Ammi dies and the young Gudiya is bewitched by the charming Kalki.
Get your copy of the book here.
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
Ever heard of a book featuring time traveling serial killers? We’ve got one here for you. A man from a distant time is aiming to kill all the Shining Girls, but one girl is determined to bring him to justice.
Get your copy of this thriller-sci-fi-horror here.
Madras On Rainy Days by Samina Ali
As a dutiful Muslim daughter and an independent young American, Layla is torn between clashing identities. Set against a background of rising Hindu-Muslim violence, and taboo questions of sexuality, Samina Ali presents the complexities of life behind the veneer, and the story of a marriage where no one is what they seem.
Pirates! by Celia Rees
Nancy Kington, daughter of a rich merchant, suddenly orphaned, is sent to live on her family’s plantation in Jamaica. Disgusted by the treatment of the slaves and her brother’s willingness to marry her off, she and one of the slaves run away and join some pirates. Told through Nancy’s writings, their adventures will appeal to readers across the spectrum and around the world.
I Know Why The Caged Birds Sing by Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou’s seven volumes of autobiography are a testament to the talents and resilience of this extraordinary writer. Loving the world, she also knows its cruelty. As a black woman she has known discrimination and extreme poverty, but also hope, joy, achievement and celebration. In this first volume of her six books of autobiography, Maya Angelou beautifully evokes her childhood with her grandmother in the American south of the 1930s.
This Place Has No Atmosphere by Paula Danzinger
In the year 2057 people live in malls, take classes in ESP, and get detention from robots. Fifteen-year-old Aurora loves everything about her life. She’s part of the coolest group of kids at school and has just started dating the best-looking guy in her grade. Then her parents make the announcement that the family’s moving to the moon! What with water rationing, no privacy, and freeze-dried hamburgers, how will Aurora ever feel like she’s home again?
All The Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister
In 2009, award-winning journalist Rebecca Traister started All the Single Ladies about the twenty-first century phenomenon of the American single woman. It was the year the proportion of American women who were married dropped below fifty percent. With more research, Traister discovered a truth: when women were given options beyond early heterosexual marriage, the results were massive social change—temperance, abolition, secondary education, and more.
We Have Always Lived In the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Taking readers deep into a labyrinth of dark neurosis, We Have Always Lived in the Castle is perhaps the crowning achievement of Shirley Jackson’s brilliant career: A deliciously unsettling novel about a perverse, isolated, and possibly murderous family and the dramatic struggle that ensues when a cousin arrives at their estate.
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
This is a story about twins Esthappen and Rahel. This was Arundhati Roy’s debut novel, in which she throws light on certain facets of life in Kerala, highlighting issues of caste system, Keralite Syrian Christian lifestyle and communism. The darker undertones in the life of the twins get more evident, as secrets, bitterness and lies destroy their world.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
“These were books we’d read before, books we’d loved,” Cheryl Strayed writes of The Awakening in The Wild. Constrained and confined by the limitations surrounding marriage and motherhood in the late 1800s, Edna Pontellier begins to challenge the notion of femininity through her thoughts and actions. Questioning her love for her husband, and opening herself up to the possibilities of other men and a life outside of societal convention leads to a gradual awakening of her desires.
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
The book featured in Emma Watson’s Our Shared Self book club and caught global attention. Naomi Wolf exposes the tyranny of the beauty myth through the ages and its oppressive function today, in the home and at work, in literature and the media, in relationships between men and women, between women and women. With pertinent and intelligent examples, she uncovers the reasons why women are consumed by this destructive obsession.
A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle
When Charles Wallace Murry goes searching through a ‘wrinkle in time’ for his lost father, he finds himself on an evil planet where all life is enslaved by a huge pulsating brain known as ‘It’. How Charles, Meg and Calvin find and free his father makes this a very special read, which all the way through is dominated by the funny and mysterious trio of guardian angels known as Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who and Mrs Which.
Get your copy of this all-time classic sci-fi here.
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey
Perveen Mistry, the daughter of a respected Zoroastrian family, has just joined her father’s law firm, becoming one of the first female lawyers in India. Armed with a legal education from Oxford, Perveen also has a tragic personal history that makes women’s legal rights especially important to her. Working on a unique case, she has to solve the mystery of the Farid widows and Malabar Hills to save lives.
How To Be A Bawse by Lilly Singh
From actress, comedian and YouTube sensation Lilly Singh (aka Superwoman) comes the definitive guide to being a BAWSE – a person who exudes confidence, reaches goals, gets hurt efficiently, and smiles genuinely because they’ve fought through it all and made it out the other side. Narrated in her hilarious, bold voice, and using stories from her own life to illustrate her message, Lilly proves that there are no shortcuts to success.
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
This collection of short stories of the Indian diaspora in the United States is ornamented by Lahiri’s beautifully measured, subtle and sober prose, and she is a writer who leaves a lot unsaid, but this work is rich in observational detail, evocative of the yearnings of the exile and full of emotional pull and reverberation.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The web TV series meant that this book had to be read ASAP. But I didn’t get around to it.
The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire – neither Offred’s nor that of the two men on which her future hangs. This powerful evocation of twenty-first century America gives full rein to Margaret Atwood’s devastating irony, wit and astute perception.
Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
This is by far the ugliest book cover I have seen. The publishers definitely got the idea of the female utopia wrong on many levels. Herland is a beautiful story of a perfectly-isolated civilisation of women, deep in the Amazon and far from disease, poverty and the weight of tradition. All alone, the women have created a society of calm and prosperity, a feminist utopia that dares to threaten the very concept of male superiority.
Get your copy here.
The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton
Fiona Sweeney wants to do something that matters, and she chooses to make her mark in the arid bush of northeastern Kenya. But, encumbered by her Western values, Fi does not understand the people she seeks to help. And in the impoverished small community of Mididima, she finds herself caught in the middle of a volatile local struggle when the bookmobile’s presence sparks a dangerous feud between the proponents of modernization and those who fear the loss of traditional ways.
The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
I chose: A book from a genre / subgenre you’ve never heard of – Bangsian genre. This genre, named after John Kendrick Bangs, features famous literary or historical figures interacting in the afterlife. A popular example being The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo, a novel infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue and unexpected supernatural twists.
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
In the 60s India, Udayan finds himself drawn to the Naxalite movement. His brother Subhash, the dutiful son, leaves home to pursue a life of scientific research in a quiet corner of America. But when Subhash learns what happened to his brother he comes back to India, hoping to pick up the pieces of a shattered family and to heal the wounds Udayan left behind.
Get your copy of this masterly novel here.
The Female Man by Joanna Russ
Four women living in parallel worlds, each with a different gender landscape. When they begin to travel to each other’s worlds each woman’s preconceptions on gender and what it means to be a woman are challenged. Acclaimed as one of the essential works of science fiction The Female Man takes a look at gender roles in society and remains a work of great power.
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
My first solo flight abroad came with a three-hour haul in Amsterdam. As I looked for an empty bench at Schiphol Airport, a young woman removed her backpack from the seat beside hers, offering me space to sit. With a smile that said ‘You’re welcome’, and a passport I didn’t recognise, she soon returned to reading the book. It was The Inheritance of Loss. The fact that a non-Indian had read a book by an Indian woman that I hadn’t, persuaded me to find out and then read the book as soon as I can. Kiran Desai’s brilliant novel, published to huge acclaim, is a story of joy and despair. Her characters face numerous choices that majestically illuminate the consequences of colonialism as it collides with the modern world.
Get your copy of this brilliant novel here.
Pinjar by Amrita Pritam
Counted among the best works of literature on the partition of India and Pakistan, Pinjar is set in 1947 Punjab, narrating the story of a Hindu girl abducted by a Muslim man, whose parents refuse to accept their defiled girl when she manages to escape home from the abductors.
Orange Is The New Black by Piper Kerman
With her career, live-in boyfriend and loving family, Piper Kerman’s reckless past suddenly catches up with her; convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at an infamous women’s prison. She learns to navigate this strange world with its arbitrary rules and codes, its unpredictable and dangerous relationships. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with tokens of generosity and simple acts of acceptance.
Sexing The Cherry by Jeanette Winterson
Sexing the Cherry celebrates the power of the imagination as it playfully juggles with our perception of history and reality, posing an allegory in every character and act on its pages. It is a story about love and sex; lies and truths; and twelve dancing princesses who lived happily ever after, but not with their husbands.
Hand-Me-Downs by Rhea Kohan
This multi-generational family saga of an uncommon Jewish family in Los Angeles centers on the Polish-born Malka and her granddaughter, Marilyn, who–as rebellious as her grandmother–defies family and fate to make her own life.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. Born a poor black tobacco farmer, her cancer cells – taken without her knowledge – became a multimillion-dollar industry and one of the most important tools in medicine. Rebecca Skloot’s fascinating account is the story of the life, and afterlife, of one woman who changed the medical world forever.
Nectar In A Sieve by Kamala Markandaya
The novel tells the tales of joy and tragedy in a period of intense urban development in the country. With the theme of poverty and debt, the book foretells the life of Rukmani, daughter of a village headman and her lover, Nathan, a tenant farmer, to whom she gets married at the age of 12.
Fragrance of Peace by Irom Sharmila
This one was recommended by a friend. A collection of Irom Sharmila’s poems, translated into English from Meiteilon. Published on the tenth anniversary of Sharmila’s hunger fast for the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, a draconian law that allows the army unfettered powers in areas that are considered politically “sensitive” or “disturbed”.
Image source: Amazon
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