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Especially in light of recent events, it is more important than ever to read about women’s experiences in this world, celebrate their diversity, and empower each other. I always find that I learn the most about something and someone’s experience by reading from their perspective about their particular experience, which is an essential factor in smashing the patriarchy. I have always felt drawn to books written by women about women because books written by cis-white men tend to give women a specific narrative that I find incredibly annoying, harmful, and disempowering. Here, I want to recommend a few empowering and essential books for understanding the different intersections of what it means to be a woman in this world.
The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler
I will never, ever shut up about this book because it is just excellent. This is a play from the 90s that reflects women’s experience with their sexuality, sexual violence, and abuse worldwide. This was a very insightful and touching reading experience for me and very different from anything I had ever read. Especially when it comes to sexuality, as women continue to face a double standard. Women are overtly sexualised by the male gaze while simultaneously being shamed for their sexuality, which this book mirrored very well. It is concise and yet manages to capture a significant aspect of feminism and female sexual empowerment.
It is not about the Burqa edited by Miriam Khan
This book is written by seventeen different Muslim women about their experiences in the Western world. It focuses on Islamophobia and what it means to have to constantly defend one’s existence, fate, and place in this world. This book taught me a lot about prejudice and Muslim women in the western world and is a great starting point for learning about the intersectionality of feminism regarding religion and race.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
I feel like most people have already read this book, but in case you have not: do it now! This is a beautifully crafted narrative following twelve Black British women. Each chapter is dedicated to a different character and follows their life story and the struggles they have faced throughout it. It explores what it means to be a Black woman in 20th century Britain, and all the chapters weave an interconnected tale that spans generations. Evaristo has a beautiful writing style, and each of the characters feels distinct, unique and highly complex. It is fascinating to read about how these characters are interwoven and how they perceive each other’s relationships entirely differently. I thoroughly enjoyed every chapter and was completely drawn into this story and compelled to keep reading despite the absence of an overarching plot. I would recommend this to everyone, especially if you are British.
Circe by Madeline Miller
Greek mythology has always massively interested me; however, the misogyny reflected in Greek tales was always very jarring. In this retelling of Circe’s life, the witch that enchanted Odysseus’s men into pigs, Greek mythology gets a feminist spin. This book follows Circe’s life and is a beautiful exploration of womanhood, loneliness and finding power and strength within yourself. Even if you do not know much about Greek mythology, this book is an excellent introduction and sets the stage really well. Miller’s writing style is absolutely stunning and is sure to captivate you.