I recently went through all of my unpublished drafts. Most were unpublishable, and some were just so old that they’re now irrelevant. I found this one from 2018 and thought it was still relevant and interesting. I wrote it when I was writing a thesis closely related to feminism and wanted some feminist reads, so I asked Twitter if anyone had any suggestions and I got quite a few great recommendations.
A ‘feminist novel’ can really be interpreted in many ways. It can come under a lot of genres, the plot can be about anything, and it doesn’t necessarily have to focus solely on female oppression. A lot of these books I have listed are almost disguised as feminist books, and range from young adult to biography.
The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
A contemporary YA novel that examines rape culture through alternating perspectives.
Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it.
Three years ago, when her older sister, Anna, was murdered and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best—the language of violence. While her own crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people. Not with Jack, the star athlete who wants to really know her but still feels guilty over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered. And not with Peekay, the preacher’s kid with a defiant streak who befriends Alex while they volunteer at an animal shelter. Not anyone.
As their senior year unfolds, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting these three teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.
The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed
Three misfits come together to avenge the rape of a fellow classmate and in the process trigger a change in the misogynist culture at their high school transforming the lives of everyone around them in this searing and timely story.
When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel equally deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students.
Told in alternating perspectives, this groundbreaking novel is an indictment of rape culture and explores with bold honesty the deepest questions about teen girls and sexuality.
Surfacing by Margaret Atwood
Part detective novel, part psychological thriller, Surfacing is the story of a talented woman artist who goes in search of her missing father on a remote island in northern Quebec. Setting out with her lover and another young couple, she soon finds herself captivated by the isolated setting, where a marriage begins to fall apart, violence and death lurk just beneath the surface, and sex becomes a catalyst for conflict and dangerous choices. Surfacing is a work permeated with an aura of suspense, complex with layered meanings, and written in brilliant, diamond-sharp prose. Here is a rich mine of ideas from an extraordinary writer about contemporary life and nature, families and marriage, and about women fragmented… and becoming whole.
When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy
Seduced by politics and poetry, the unnamed narrator falls in love with a university professor and agrees to be his wife, but what for her is a contract of love is for him a contract of ownership. As he sets about reducing her to his idealised version of a kept woman, bullying her out of her life as an academic and writer in the process, she attempts to push back – a resistance he resolves to break with violence and rape.
Smart, fierce and courageous When I Hit You is a dissection of what love meant, means and will come to mean when trust is undermined by violence; a brilliant, throat-tightening feminist discourse on battered faces and bruised male egos; and a scathing portrait of traditional wedlock in modern India.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
When first published in 1899, The Awakening shocked readers with its honest treatment of female marital infidelity. Audiences accustomed to the pieties of late Victorian romantic fiction were taken aback by Chopin’s daring portrayal of a woman trapped in a stifling marriage, who seeks and finds passionate physical love outside the confines of her domestic situation.
Aside from its unusually frank treatment of a then-controversial subject, the novel is widely admired today for its literary qualities. Edmund Wilson characterized it as a work “quite uninhibited and beautifully written, which anticipates D. H. Lawrence in its treatment of infidelity.” Although the theme of marital infidelity no longer shocks, few novels have plumbed the psychology of a woman involved in an illicit relationship with the perception, artistry, and honesty that Kate Chopin brought to The Awakening.
Young Jane Young Gabrielle Zevin
This is the story of five women . . .
Meet Rachel Grossman. She’ll stop at nothing to protect her daughter, Aviva, even if it ends up costing her everything. Meet Jane Young. She’s disrupting a quiet life with her daughter, Ruby, to seek political office for the first time. Meet Ruby Young. She thinks her mom has a secret. She’s right. Meet Embeth Levin. She’s made a career of cleaning up her congressman husband’s messes. Meet Aviva Grossman. The Internet won’t let her or anyone else forget her past transgressions.
This is the story of five women . . . and the
sex sexist scandal that binds them together.
From Gabrielle Zevin, the bestselling author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, comes another story with unforgettable characters that is particularly suited to the times we live in now . . .
It’s almost been three years since I wrote this and I still haven’t read any of these books! Writing that thesis killed me so I didn’t want to think about feminism for a while. It’s okay now, the trauma of writing a thesis has basically disappeared, and I can now read these books. I’m most intrigued by Chopin’s book and Young Jane Young.